茶叶蛋 Chinese Tea Eggs
The visual appeal of any ingredient or food is obviously important in creating a hunger for it, but even after seeing a wonderful food photograph, I’ll read the ingredient list and recipe instructions before deciding if it is something I wish to try making for myself. Chinese tea eggs are an exception; their beautiful designs are intriguing and made experimenting with them something to look forward to.
These spiced treats are often household items in China, but are also sold by street vendors there, in addition to being popular in areas such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. While there are variations in the techniques of preparing tea eggs, they all essentially involve a combination of boiling and/or simmering shell-on eggs in a spiced mixture usually containing dark tea leaves and soy sauce. Anise, cinnamon and peppercorns are also commonly added.
To increase the intensity of both the coloring and flavor, the egg shells are cracked to allow the spice mixture to reach the edible part of the egg. These random cracks in the shell also create the visual texture when the eggs are opened to be eaten.
In the recipe I used from the Appetite for China web site, the simmering liquid used water, tea leaves, soy sauce, salt, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and black peppercorns. The smell throughout the house was a side benefit.
The resulting coloring was not only evident in the egg, but also created a snake skin-like appearance on the shells.
The eggs have a somewhat subtle flavor, and was best described by one article as having an "earthy" taste. The soy sauce also lends an expected and pleasant saltiness, which I've always thought appropriate for hard boiled eggs.
Recipe from Appetite for China