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Failed Chinese tea eggs

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I got this recipe http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/saveur-100-tea-eggs from Saveur for those stained glass-looking eggs. Clearly one cannot boil 5 eggs in a half cup of soy, so this recipe is a bummer without even trying it.

But every other recipe I can google up fails when I try it. At best I get a faintly stained egg after a couple days in the tea/soy/spice fluid. Letting it go a week is no better.

So does anyone know the trick?

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I did them perfect right out of the gate with Martin Yan's version. Not sure if it is online or not.

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The first step in the recipe is to put that 1/2 cup of soy in 2 cups of water.

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I boil the eggs (I've heard if you slightly undercook them, the whites will take the color better), crack well, making sure that the membrane around the egg is broken, then simmer in the spice mixture. Using mostly, or entirely, dark soy sauce will help to give good color without too much salt or too much soy sauce taste.

I'm still playing around with proportions, but my rough method is as follows (loosely based on http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=186510):

10 eggs

20-30g tea (black tea is probably best, though I usually use heavy-roasted Tieguanyin)

~ 1 tsp black peppercorns (you could add some Sichuan peppercorns also if you have some)

2 Tbsp kosher salt

4 Tbsp (or moe) dark soy sauce

2 pieces star anise, broken up (optional)

1 heaping tsp 5 spice (or use the individual spices separately)

1 stick cassia bark or Vietnamese cinnamon

Chinese style dried tangerine peel (optional)

Bring eggs to a boil, let sit, covered, for 10+ minutes.

Cool eggs in cold water, and crack shells (well) with the back of a spoon.

Add cold water to cover and spices and simmer for a couple of hours. Let cool, place in container with marinade for another 24 hours before draining.


Edited by Will (log)

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The first step in the recipe is to put that 1/2 cup of soy in 2 cups of water.

They changed the recipe after my comment.

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I think that I've not been violent enough cracking the shells. Seemed plenty aggressive, but the membranes always were intact.

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Ferran Adria makes a " Millennium egg" in which he suspends egg yolk ( ? ) spheres in a dashi/soy gelatin with an egg shell till it sets.

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For my tea eggs, I use dark soy (sometimes sweet soy) and for the tea I use a chunk of a black tea brick - I don't recall where I got it - I chop off about a 1 inch square or so, for six to ten eggs.

but what remains of the package indicates it was imported from India.

It produces really strong and intensely colored "tea" which is really too strong for drinking (to my taste) but is ideal for a dye for cloth and for eggs.

I have a little routine, after I have cracked the eggs evenly, all over, I use very fine-tipped, sharp scissors to cut into the air pocket at the large end of each egg.

I don't know if this really has any appreciable effect but it works for me.

I also add a tablespoon of roasted sesame oil whisked vigorously into the soaking mixture as someone ones told me this does something to keep the ingredients combined so they don't separate and gives a better end result.

Again, I've never done a side-by-side comparison to see if it does make a difference, but it works for me.

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I used Lapsang Souchong tea last time I made tea eggs, and I liked the results.

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So here's my latest failed tea egg. Boiled x 5 minutes, cracked vigorously, then boiled for 20 minutes in soy/tea/spice/caramel color mix. Then sit for two days in the fridge in the tea mixture. The membrane got good color...

tea egg.JPG

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The first step in the recipe is to put that 1/2 cup of soy in 2 cups of water.

They changed the recipe after my comment.

Even so, but a huge pet peeve of mine is recipes that leave water off the ingredients list if water is indeed required as an ingredient. Noting the addition of water solely in the body of the recipe instruction is lazy writing. I also dislike that recipe authors regularly omit articles (e.g. "put soy sauce into pan" instead of "put the soy sauce into the pan"). That is also lazy writing, in my opinion. The same goes for using T. for tablespoon and t. for teaspoon, also in my opinion - unless you are the editor of Lucky Peach, then it doesn't matter anyway since the tablespoon/teaspoon amounts stated in the recipes in that publication seem to be interchangeable. :raz:

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I've never tried making these but am tempted to do so just out of curiosity. If your technique is fine then I wonder if has to do with your ingredients, like your eggs or soy sauce, for instance.

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I'm stumped. Eggs have been from different cartons. All Eggland's Best brand. Soy is Kikoman Light, Tea is Red Rose. The solution is really black.

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The problem, imho, might be both the soy sauce and the lack of acid. The soy sauce should be dark, as this is what colors the eggs down through the membrane and on to the white itself. The acid is provided by the black tea leaves. I like loose leaves, since they are of a better quality and therefore more powerful. I also up the acid by adding rice wine and a good strip of dried tangerine/orange peel, and I like about a tablespoon of rock sugar to heighten the spicy notes.

Will's recipe looks a lot like what I've used over the years, except that I use just enough water to cover the eggs, as well as of course the wine and sugar. I also make the marinade first and simmer it for about half an hour to get the flavors to "bloom"; I've found that if the liquid is too watery when I put the hard boiled eggs in, they never color up quite right. One thing you ought do is taste the marinade: it should taste salty and rich and very flavorful. Since soy sauces and teas vary in strength, adjust the seasoning as needed.

You don't need to boil the eggs furiously, in my experience. Just simmer them slowly for 3 hours uncovered (covering the pot often causes a Swiss cheese sort of effect in the whites), adding more water as needed to cover the eggs, but not so much that you dilute the marinade. Seep the eggs in the marinade while it cools off, and then let them sit in it in the fridge for a day or two. Slightly older eggs work best for me, as they are easier to peel.

Hope this helps!

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I wonder if the low sodium soy sauce is the problem. As Carolyn says the solution should be quite salty, and I think the saltiness may help the osmotic transfer of the marinade through the egg membrane.


Edited by sheetz (log)

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That might well be it! I'll add salt!

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I've looked at other recipes online and a lot of them also say to simmer the eggs in the soy sauce mixture for a couple of hours. The Saveur recipe just says to simmer for 5 min and then add ice and I wonder if that could be the difference.

And as others have said I think you should try adding some Chinese dark soy sauce to the mix. Kikkoman just isn't the same. If you can't find dark soy sauce you could try added a spoon of molasses.

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The problem with this recipe is that it uses too little ingredient portions to make the eggs. I can understand it... someone wants to make 4 to 5 eggs, so they use a little bit of this a little bit of that, and so not ending up with a big pot of sauce after cooking. But think about it... if the simmering sauce is only like 1-inch deep in the pan/pot, how can the eggs be flavored fully? The cooking time seems too short too.

A better approach is: use more soy sauce, water, spices, etc.. Make a big pot of tea-egg braising sauce. Make sure each egg is fully submerged in the sauce. Simmer them for a few hours (min 2 to 3 hours). Let the eggs cool and soaked in the sauce. (But 2 to 3 hours should be long enough that the eggs are ready to be served.) Afterwards, you filter out the residue from the sauce and save the sauce in a plastic container. Put it in a freezer and re-use it next time you make the eggs again. Each time you cook tea eggs, put in more soy sauce, water, spices, etc. and repeat the cycle.

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