Monday, November 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Chinese Tea Eggs

Daring Cooks' November Challenge: Cooking with Tea

Hard-boiled eggs are so basic, so ordinary, so taken for granted. Ditto for tea, that ubiquitous drink. But not so much in November as the Daring Cooks worked with tea. Sarah from Simply Cooked was our November Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to create something truly unique in both taste and technique! We learned how to cook using tea with recipes from Tea Cookbook by Tonia George and The New Tea Book by Sara Perry. I was intrigued by the weblike, marblized appearance of Chinese Tea Eggs and decided to focus on this classic Asian dish.

Most of the tea egg recipes I found called for Chinese five spice powder, an ingredient not currently stocked in my spice pantry. While I could have run to an Asian market to buy some, it was more fun to research the ingredients for this seasoning. Five spice powder is traditionally composed of cinnamon, fennel seed, cloves, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. Bingo! I had all five items on hand, each one contributing to the traditional flavor mix of bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and savory. I toasted them, then decided to use them whole rather than grinding them into powder.

The technique was both simple and familiar, reminiscent of coloring hard-boiled Easter eggs. I had used this procedure before: boil several eggs, crack their shells and then submerge them in beet juice or water tinted with onion skins or food coloring for an interesting effect. The resulting eggs were always quirky and unpredictable, but still tasted like ordinary hard boiled eggs. 

The Chinese Tea Eggs surprised me with their subtle, yet distinct flavor. Anise and ginger were the stronger notes, sweetly softened by muted hints of the cinnamon, soy and citrus. The tea did not come through as a flavor, or perhaps it was too subtle for me to pick up. The faintly Asian flavor seemed a good match to the unusual, antiqued appearance of these eggs. (OMG, did that begin to sound like a pretentious wine review?!)

We each sampled a chilled egg, accompanied by seaweed salad and flavored rice balls -- tasty, but one tea egg apiece was sufficient. I would make them again, but RL isn't in a rush to eat another one.

I used the remaining eggs to make deviled eggs, adding a few drops of Ponzu to my usual mayonnaise/mustard mixture. Mmmmmmm, these disappeared quickly, almost before I could grab a photo. Once again, I enjoyed them, but RL was not a fan. I'll have to stop asking his opinion, or just prepare Chinese Tea Eggs for myself next time.

Gently simmering in water  
Cracked and steeped in flavored tea 
The eggshells looked pretty cool after peeling
Sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with seaweed salad and rice balls
Deviled Tea Eggs, a savory snack

Five Spice Powder
3 tablespoons cinnamon
6 star anise
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

  1. Roast the whole spices in a dry frying pan until fragrant. Be careful not to scorch them!
  2. Combine all ingredients in a coffee grinder and blend until finely ground.
  3. Store in an airtight container.
  4. The mix will keep for 6 to 8 weeks.

Chinese Tea Eggs

6 eggs (any size)
2 tablespoons  black tea leaves, or 4 tea bags
2 tablespoons Chinese five spice powder
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon dried orange zest, or two strips of Mandarin orange peel
a small knob of fresh ginger, unpeeled and smashed slightly 
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

  1. Gently place eggs in a medium-sized pot and add enough cold water to cover the eggs by at least one inch. Bring to a boil over medium heat, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and keep the cooking water.
  2. Cool the eggs under cold running water. Use a spoon to gently tap the eggs all over until they are covered with small cracks. This can also be done by tapping and rolling the eggs very gently on the counter.
  3. Return the eggs to the pan and add all of the remaining ingredients except the sesame seeds. Cover the pan. Heat gently and simmer, covered, for one hour.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and let the eggs cool down in the liquid for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the eggs from the liquid. Peel one egg to check how dark it is; the longer you steep the more flavorful the eggs and darker the web pattern will be. 
  6. Eat warm or allow the eggs to cool fully before serving.
  7. To serve, peel and slice the eggs in halves or quarters. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Note: Serve hot or cold, as a snack with rice or as a stand-alone side dish. 


  1. Your egg are beautiful,and kudos for making your own 5 spice blend. I somehow ended up with 2 jars of it in my spice cupboard, so any reason to use it is a good thing for me. Great job on the challenge!

  2. Jo - thanks for the positive comments. How will you ever use up all of that 5-spice?

  3. I've had a jar of 5-spice in my cabinet for quite awhile (read: have no clue how long). I vowed that when (if ever) I run out I'll make my own. I like that you used the black and regular sesame seeds, very pretty. Deviled eggs never last long in my house...I only made 3 eggs so no chance of making the deviled eggs, next time I'll have to make the full 6.

  4. Beautiful tea eggs! And great idea to add ponzu when you deviled them.

  5. Rhonda - deviled eggs don't last long in our house either, or at most parties.

    Garlic Press - thanks for the compliment. Ponzu worked well for me, but your sriacha touch sounds wicked good.

  6. I love that picture with the sesame and greens.
    Hats off to you for making your own 5 spice. I too couldn't taste the tea in the eggs but loved the spice note

  7. They look stunning - the greens look so vibrant! Delicious

  8. Oh wow...i look your shots. I love the seaweed w/ the egg idea. Will be doing that next time i make tea eggs ;) Kudos for making your own 5 spice! Good job on this challenge.


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