Since Easter is rolling around the corner, now’s the time to take advantage of the crates of eggs stacked at the market, and get ready for the big holiday weekend.
Beyond colorful dyed eggs, here’s a creative and tasty variation for beautifying hard cooked eggs. In China, marbled tea eggs have been around for centuries. The concept is quite simple. Simmer a flavorful marinade of soy, oolong tea, cinnamon, star anise, and perhaps a bit of orange. Our marinade incorporates the heavy smokiness of lapsang souchong tea, but any oolong will do. Using the back of a spoon, crack the shells of hard cooked eggs into a series of spider webs, then soak them in the marinade.
The original marble tea eggs in China were simmered in a marinade for quite a while, then left to soak even longer. These days less tough and stinky eggs can be crafted with a brief simmer in the soy blend, then refrigerated in the marinade for a mere day or two.
Half the fun is the final egg peel unveiling the outcome of this process. It is always a surprise, perfected by practice. The soy marinade saturates via the egg cracks, artfully coloring and flavoring the eggs. For darker marbling and more pronounced flavor, allow a couple of days. Pretty and tasty.
Marbled Tea Eggs
6-12 hard cooked eggs with shells intact, chilled (see below)
1/2 cup soy sauce (I use a deep, rich mushroom soy sauce found at Asian markets)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups water, divided (more for the pot)
2 Lapsang souchong tea bags, oolong or other black tea
2 star anise, broken up
1 cinnamon stick
2 – 3” x ½” strips peel from mandarin or other thin skinned orange
- Gently crack shells of hard cooked eggs all over with the back of a spoon to create webbing. Do not tap too hard.
- Prepare marinade
Pour 1 cup boiling water over the tea bags and steep for 5-10 minutes.
In a pan that will hold up the number of eggs in one layer, heat the soy sauce, salt, sugar to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the brewed tea, additional 1 cup water, cinnamon stick, star anise, orange peel, and simmer gently 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
- Marbleize the eggs
Gently lower the cracked hard cooked eggs in a single layer into the heated marinade and add enough water to barely cover the eggs and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in liquid (about 1 hour).
- Marinade the eggs
Store the eggs and marinade in a covered container in the refrigerator, discarding cinnamon and other seasonings. Let marinate in refrigerator at least overnight. For darker marbling and more pronounced flavor allow up to 2 days. Peel the eggs and serve. Yield: 6-12.
Note: reserve the marinade; it can be re-used.