Monday, February 11, 2013

Marble Tea Eggs 茶葉蛋

Happy Chinese New Year! I wish you all great health, luck and prosperity throughout the Year of Snake! 

This is my favourite and the most important festival for the Chinese! Throughout the entire period, families gather, juniors pay visits to the senior members of the families, children receive red packets (me me me! As long as I am not married I still get them!), lots of traditional cakes, sweets and snacks to eat, houses adorned with all sorts of colourful, symbolic festive flowers with the backdrop of dices rolling, mahjong pieces clattering and cards shuffling! Ohoh, and no matter where we are and who we bump into, we will definately generously pull out a string of 4-Chinese-character blessings which are mostly related to good luck and fortune!

Speaking of great fortune, I present to you these nice little tea eggs! I know those Chinese herbal tea houses and chain soup stores sell these tea eggs all year round but these eggs mean something to us. Tea eggs is a traditional must-have for Shanghainese every Chinese New Year. We call these brown, aromatic tea eggs yuen-bo, the traditional Chinese gold nuggets, outline of which I think, with a little bit of imagination, resembles an egg placed in a boat. Peeling off the cracked chestnut-color shell, you will find a pretty marble pattern printed on these yuen bos. They taste soooo good, I already had 3 yesterday! Yes, the egg yolks too, forget about the cholesterol, they are too good to be wasted!

Marble Tea Eggs
(Serving: 28 eggs)
- 28 eggs
- a huge pot of water
- around 2 cups of light soy sauce
- around 1 cup of dark soy sauce
- 4 black tea teabags (I used Rickshaw)
- a handful of star anise and Sichuan peppercorn 花椒八角
- 4 big lumps of rock sugar 

1. First, boil the eggs over medium-high fire for around 10 minutes until they are fully cooked. 
2. Remove the eggs from the water. Gently pat all over each egg using the back of a spoon so each egg is gently cracked all around.
3. After you have cracked each egg, put them back in a large pot of water. Add in the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, the tea bags, star anise and peppercorns and rock sugar into the pot and bring everything into boil over medium fire for at least 30 minutes. At this point, the spiced sauce will seep into the cracks and marinate the eggs inside their shells. This enhances the flavour and creates the marble pattern.
4. After that, lower the fire and let the sauce slowly simmer until the sauce reduce to at least half.
5. The tea eggs are now ready to serve. But the longer you marinate and simmer them the better they taste (plus the egg yolk will get so soft that it will melt in your mouth). So for me, I usually let them marinate in the sauce for at least 2 days before serving. Simmer the eggs over lower fire for 10-20 minutes each day. The whole pot can last for over a week. Great to be served as breakfast or snack!

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