There's more than one way to crack an egg. In this case, we crackled some eggs. Traditional Chinese tea eggs, or marbled eggs, sparked an idea for us. We love, love, love decorating Easter eggs. Making these tea eggs is a simple way to create a little work of art that you can eat too. We've all had fun with pastel dye kits and slathering eggs in glue and glitter. But honestly, it's kind of hard to keep every speck of glitter out when you repurpose those artistic creations into an egg salad.
In China, tea eggs are a snack available from vendors as fast food at night markets or made at home and often eaten for breakfast. They are prepared by simmering hardboiled eggs (with cracked shells) in black tea, soy sauce and Chinese five spice powder (cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves and peppercorns). The flavor of the liquid is infused into the egg through the cracks, and imprints these stunningly intricate patterns onto the egg whites.
Hmmm, if black tea works, what about other flavors of tea? We tried a lot of variations, even some herbal teas that imparted more subtle results of color and flavor. After eating many eggs (and needing to begin a new exercise regime), our favorite is the version we're sharing here, made with chai tea from a special local teamaker.
The chai tea eggs produced a delicately infused combination of clove, pepper, ginger and cardamom. This Indian tea is just a slight departure from the flavor profile that is traditional to the Chinese tea eggs. We also added soy sauce, like the original, for a bit of caramel saltiness to round out the spices. Since it's a portable little protein bomb we think it's a great snack for packing in lunch boxes or when traveling.
Any normal person would leave well enough alone. But why not take these beautiful little eggs one step farther? With a continuation of Asian flavors and a nod to Japanese cuisine, you can prepare deviled tea eggs with a wasabi filling. The herbal warmth from the wasabi that fills your chest and head is like an exclamation mark at the end of a well-stated sentence. Besides, you'll notice when the yolk of your tea egg is revealed, there can be a greenish ring around it. This occurs from cooking the eggs longer than you would for hardboiled. Mash the yolks with wasabi paste and the rings disappear.
We think it's so pretty on the outside that the inside should be too. Ours are garnished with chives, paprika and nigella seeds (also known as black caraway, with a slightly oniony, pungent flavor). You might try a sliver of pickled ginger with fish roe, a few tender bean sprouts, a thin slice of avocado...
Asian-Infused Deviled eggs
(Makes 6 whole eggs or 12 appetizer bites)
What does the devil have to do with eggs? In the 19th century, deviling food became a term used to describe the process of making food spicy. Since the filling is spicy, these were dubbed deviled eggs.
2 chai tea bags
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 cups water
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tsp wasabi paste
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
chives, scallions, black sesame or nigella seeds, fish roe, pickled ginger, avocado, paprika, turmeric powder
Gently place eggs in a medium sauce pan and cover eggs with cold water. Bring to a boil, put a lid on the pan, and turn off heat. Allow the eggs to steep for 5 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and allow them to cool for several minutes until cool enough to handle. Drain the water from the pan.
Gently tap the end of each egg on the counter to crack the shell. Continue to gently crack all the way around using the back of a spoon. It’s ok if small pieces break off. Be careful not to crack the shell off completely. Smaller cracks will produce a more intricate pattern.
In the same pan, combine tea bags, soy sauce and 4 cups water. Bring to a low simmer. Add the cracked eggs. If needed, add more water so that eggs are covered by about 1 inch. Continue simmering on low for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer eggs and liquid to a bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight. (Eggs can steep for up to 24 hours. After that, remove them from tea mixture and store them unpeeled in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.)
At this point, these tea eggs can be peeled and enjoyed as a tasty snack. But to prepare them as deviled eggs, slice each egg in half and scoop yolks into a small bowl. Using a fork, mash yolks until they look like very fine crumbs. Mix in mayonnaise, wasabi paste, rice wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine thoroughly. Use a pastry bag (or plastic bag with corner snipped off) to pipe the filling into the egg whites. Garnish as desired.