Saturday, November 11, 2017

Chinese Tea Leaf Eggs

Chinese tea eggs or tea leaf eggs are boiled until they are hard. The egg is then removed from the water and the shell is cracked all around. After about ten minutes the eggs are put into a liquid to simmer for about 20 minutes. The liquid commonly includes five-spice powder, cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, Szechuan peppercorns, soy sauce and black tea leaves. Even recipes that do not call for tea leaves are called tea eggs. During the simmering, the liquid seeps inside the egg shell and marinates the egg. 

The eggs and liquid are then put into a glass or ceramic container and steeped (drenched or saturated) in a refrigerator for several hours. When the egg is peeled it should have regions of light and dark brown and mid-brown tones along cracks in the shell. The yolk will have a thin, gray layer, and then a regular yellow inside. 
We were at our hotel in Turpan and they had eggs in a pan that were all cracked and broken and I was horrified when I saw them. I thought, "why in the world would anyone eat one of those?" 
A pan full of horrible looking cracked eggs.
It looked like the server had dropped the pan on the way into the buffet.
Then I saw someone in our tour group try one. It looked awful, but he liked it. So I immediately went for one, opened it up, and loved it. The egg was infused with the salty flavor and was wonderful. 

Later that day as we took a bus from Turpan to Urumqi, we stopped for everyone to take a bathroom break. One of the shops at the stop had a stainless steel bowl out in front with eggs in a black liquid with lots of spice and sitting on a heat source. I made the connection between these eggs and the ones we had earlier that morning. 
Very fun. 

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