A popular street snack in China and Taiwan that's easy (and super fun) to make at home. For a stronger flavor, let the eggs steep in the tea broth overnight in the fridge after you finish simmering them in step 4. You can also freeze the broth and reuse it. —Cynthia Chen McTernan
1 hour 30 minutes
6 eggs, but easily doubled
soy sauce, more to taste
black tea leaves or 1 tea bag
star anise, more to taste
small stick cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
to 3 strips orange, mandarin, or tangerine peel (fresh or dried)
cracked peppercorns or 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Place eggs in pot of cold water, enough that the eggs are covered by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
Rinse the eggs with cold water. One by one, take each egg and tap it gently with the blunt end of a knife or the back of a spoon until the entire surface is lightly cracked. If small pieces flake off, don't worry, but do try to keep the shell intact over the egg.
Return the eggs to the pot and refill with water. I just fill enough to barely cover the eggs, but for the sake of precision, it should be about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water. Add the rest of the ingredients -- soy sauce, salt, tea, star anise, cinnamon, orange peel, pepper, and sugar if using -- and give it a good stir.
Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer. The amount of time you simmer your eggs at this point will depend on how firm you like them. I like to simmer them for 2-3 hours if I have the time, uncovered, yielding a flavorful egg yolk and chewy, firm egg white. (Note that if you simmer uncovered, you’ll need to add a cup of water every 15 minutes or so, as the water depletes.) If you like softer eggs, simmer for just 40-45 minutes, with the pot covered. Be warned that these eggs are never the soft, bright yellow yolk eggs you get
from hard-boiling for just a few minutes. They often have that greenish tinge that I've learned some people abhor -- it's only natural because they cook for much longer.
Finally, after simmering, steep the eggs in the tea broth overnight for a stronger flavor, or simply enjoy as is. (Note: If your one true love is soft-boiled eggs, you could theoretically simply skip step 4, heat the mixture until warm and flavors have a chance to disburse, then let the soft-boiled eggs steep overnight in the liquid in the refrigerator. The flavor should still come through, and the eggs would be less cooked. If you try this, I would love to know your results!)