As Food52 gets older (and wiser), and our archive of recipes grows, we’re making the effort to revisit some gold recipes from our community. Cynthia | two red bowls shared these Street-Style Chinese Tea Eggs back in 2014, and will soon feature a version of this recipe in her forthcoming cookbook, A Common Table in October. Below, Cynthia tells us a little more about her dish.
These eggs are a popular street snack in China and Taiwan, but are easy (and super fun!) to make at home. I love how hands-off the process is and what a great, flavorful snack or side dish the eggs make for the whole week.
There is something magical about the way these come about: the eggs are soft-boiled, then gently cracked all over and simmered in a flavorful broth of tea and soy sauce for hours until the black liquid seeps in along the cracks. The eggs end up with a rich flavor and an intricate, delicate spider-webbed pattern.
My mother used to make these when I was a child, so I can't remember the first time I tried them. When I was older and visiting Taiwan and China, I bought a few at a 7-11 or by the side of the street when I was feeling nostalgic.
This dish reminds me of my mother’s cooking. I'm a sucker for anything savory and just a bit sweet. These eggs combine salty soy sauce and smoky tea with just a hint of sweet from the licorice-y anise, cinnamon, orange peel, and sugar. I also love the texture of eggs that have been hard-boiled for awhile—I know I'm in the minority on that one!
There's something wonderful about making them for the first time and watching the shell fall off to reveal that fun, webbed pattern. Make plenty of cracks to let the flavor seep in and create a more intricate web.
Also adjust the broth as you go to ensure you end up with eggs with a flavor you like. The broth should be quite salty, so if you simmer for a bit and find it a bit bland, add more soy sauce, a little bit more tea, etc. If it's too salty, just thin it out with a bit of water. For a stronger flavor, let the eggs steep in the tea broth overnight in the fridge after you finish simmering them. You can also freeze the broth and reuse it.
There’s no wrong way to eat these tea eggs. They're delicious warm or cold, as a side dish with rice and a vegetable, or as a snack straight from the fridge. I find that the flavor just improves as the eggs sit.
- 6 eggs
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce, more to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon black tea leaves or 1 tea bag
- 3 pieces star anise, more to taste
- 1 small stick cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 to 3 strips orange, mandarin, or tangerine peel (fresh or dried)
- 1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns or 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
What's your favorite egg snack? Share recipes in the comments below!