Tea Eggs 茶葉蛋

Hard Boiled But Soft Inside
Mottled Like Ancient Porcelain

“Tea eggs are one of those ways of hard-boiling eggs so long that they are soft inside.” — Buwei Yang Chao [1]

Making Chinese dim sum snack, Tea Eggs, Cha Ye Dan

Tea Eggs

Tea Eggs, as Dr. Chao says, are a Chinese way of hard boiling eggs for a long time so that eventually they become soft again. Not soft-runny, but soft and dry-tender, as far as the yolks, and soft and firm but not leathery for the whites.

The Eggs are boiled with tea leaves and the shells are crackled but not removed.  As a result, when you shell them, the Eggs are a mottled color like ancient porcelain.

Maing Chinese tea eggs a famous dim sum

Tea Eggs, showing mottled appearance

Method: In the standard way of making these Eggs, you first boil the Eggs, then crackle the shells, but don’t remove them, then you add Tea Leaves, some Salt and tangerine peels and cook longer at a low simmer for about two hours.When you are done, you just leave the eggs in the cooking liquid until time to eat them.

These Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated, except in very hot weather, and will keep for several days — if they aren’t too good to last! If Tea Eggs become too salty, you may need to add some plain water to dilute the saltiness of the liquid.

This way of cooking Eggs belongs to the snack or dian-xin (dim-sum, “dot-heart”   點心 ) category. Tea Eggs often appear at picnics and are convenient to carry when traveling.  They can also appear at breakfast or just about any time.

Chinese Tea Eggs, a form of tian xin or dim sum

Tea Eggs in their Steeping Liquid, as Usually Found Outside the Movie or Opera House

Movie House Snacks: Vendors commonly sell Tea Eggs in front of Chinese movie theaters and in general wherever hungry people might be, as a kind of quick snack.

Using crystallized rock sugar in the Asian kitchen.

Crystallized Rock Sugar

Variations: Besides the standard recipe, there are a number of variants, by adding other ingredients to the mixture —

  • Rock Sugar
  • Star Anise
  • Soy Sauce
  • Cinnamon
  • Tangerine Peel
  • Five-Spice Powder and so on, in different combinations.

You can also use Jasmine or Litchi Tea instead of Black Tea Leaves for a slightly different effect. [2]

Traditional Chinese Medicine regards these eggs as neutral and sweet in nature. It uses them to relieve fatigue, revitalize energy and nourish the blood, and also to combine “dryness” (in the TCM sense). Tea Eggs are thought to be beneficial to women after childbirth.  Persons with high cholesterol levels may need to avoid the yolks. [3]

Tea Eggs are an ancient Chinese way of handling Eggs and almost everyone likes them, especially children. Important: You need to make at least a couple dozen when you make Tea Eggs, preferably more. [4]

Making Chinese dim sum, Tea Eggs, Cha Ye Dan

For Further Information:

[1] Buwei Yang Chao, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (New York: John Day, 1949)  —   http://www.amazon.com/Cook-Chinese-Buwei-Yang-Chao/dp/0394717031
[2] Gloria Bley Miller, The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook (New York: Atheneum, 1966) —   http://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Recipe-Chinese-Cookbook/dp/0671509934
[3] Fa Xiang Hou, Releasing the Power of Food (Baltimore: Agora, 2003) —   http://www.amazon.com/Unleashing-Power-Food-Recipes-Heal/dp/1891434160
[4] “Tea egg,” article, Wikipedia —   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_egg

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