Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 27, 2022

© David L. Reamer

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Chinese tea eggs

These Chinese delicacies are boiled in a sultry brew of tea, spices, soy and sugar for at least a half hour (some recipes say 3 hours!) to stain the eggs with colour and flavour. They’re stunning piled in a pretty bowl like antique ornaments in a museum.

6 eggs boiled for 8 minutes, cold but unpeeled
¼ c. (60 ml) loose-leaf black tea like Lapsang Souchong (smoky) or Earl Grey (citrusy)
¼ c. (60 ml) soy sauce
2 tbsp. (30 ml) light or dark brown sugar
1 star anise pod
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. (5 ml) peppercorns
1½ c. (375 ml) water

One by one, cradle the boiled eggs in your palm and use the back of a spoon to tap fine cracks in the shells like a mosaic. Crack firmly enough to penetrate the membrane between the shell and egg white, but not so hard that the shell flakes away. If a piece falls off here and there, the contrast will be lovely.

Put the eggs in a 1½-quart (1.5-L) saucepan with the tea, soy sauce, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Gently stir the eggs a few times to be sure they are cooking and dyeing evenly. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a low simmer. It may be necessary to set the pan slightly off the burner to keep the heat low enough.

Remove the pot from the heat, uncover and let the eggs cool in the tea until they reach room temperature. Transfer the eggs and tea to a storage container, and refrigerate to cool completely, or peel and eat right away. For darker marbling and deeper flavour, leave the eggs in the tea overnight. Unpeeled eggs will keep for a few days, out of the tea, refrigerated in a covered container. Makes 6 eggs.

8-minute eggs: Yolks are set, but moist, creamy and golden with just the edges turned light yellow. Whites are firm, but tender and easy to peel.

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