Chinese Tea Eggs (Cha Ye Dan)

I made the less sophisticated version of these Chinese Tea Eggs in the past (basically make boiled eggs, take the shells off and soak the eggs in a soy sauce & spice mixture).  The ones I made for this post is a bit more time intensive, but definitely worthwhile if you want to impress your friends, families and guests. 

These tea eggs are eaten as snacks in China, Taiwan and basically where there are large number of China immigrants elsewhere.  They are sold on the streets, at restaurants and cooked at homes.  I made these around the Chinese Lunar New Year, and it also coincided with my last session of pro-photography session.  I was a bit afraid how the egg will hold up to the lights and withstand the photo session, but it did well.  Unfortunately, after few hours I didn’t think it would be safe to eat the eggs so few of them got tossed (very sad about that), but fortunately I had more in the refrigerator. 

(Photographer: Richard “Dexter” Wuest; Food Stylist: Chris Koch)

This recipe came from Saveur, and it makes 8:

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. whole black peppercorns
½ tsp. fennel seeds
8 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tbsp. loose-leaf smoked tea, such as lapsang souchong (available from Amazon)
8 eggs

Bring soy sauce, sugar, peppercorns, fennel, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and 2 cups water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan; remove from heat and add tea. Let steep for 10 minutes.
Pour marinade through a fine strainer into a bowl and keep warm. Place eggs in a 4-qt. saucepan; cover by ½″ with cold water. Place saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil; cover pan, remove from heat, and let sit until eggs are soft-boiled, about 5 minutes.
Drain eggs. Crack shells all over but do not peel eggs; return to saucepan along with marinade. Bring to a boil and let cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups ice. Let cool in marinade before serving; and yes, remember to peel off the shells!

My opinion:  You get just enough flavor of the sauce soaked into the egg (which makes it a perfect snack food).  Just make sure you put ice into the sauce (when you’re supposed to), because if not, you will have a difficult time peeling off the shells.  The sauce actually soaks onto the membrane of the egg (even though it does “marinate” the egg).   I did not have lapsang souchong tea, instead, I used double the amount of oolong tea (you can buy this at any Asian markets).


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