Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs is an Asian savoury snack, originated from China. What are Chinese Tea Eggs? They are hard-boiled eggs, with cracked shells still intact, simmered in a black tea and spice mixture for a few hours until the flavours and fragrance from the tea mixture has flavoured the eggs. Nowadays, Chinese Tea Eggs can be found throughout Asia and it is very common over here in Malaysia. I'm sure many of my Asian blogger friends are familiar with these Tea Eggs, and a favorite of many! For my other friends who has not heard or seen of Chinese Tea Eggs before, it is a savory snack that can be eaten anytime of the day. Very easy to make and delicious to eat. 

Over here in Malaysia, when one goes shopping in a shopping complex, sometimes you can smell the wonderful fragrant aroma from the Chinese Tea Eggs. Just follow the smell, and it would lead you to a stall or shop that has a big pot of slow cooker,  with dozens of simmering eggs bubbling in the tea mixture. Even though the Tea Eggs can be eaten cold, I love to eat it while it is still hot and fragrant. 

I used the slow cooker to simmer the eggs for a few hours. This slow cooker of mine has been with me for about 20 years now, and over the years, have faithfully simmered dozens of Chinese Tea Eggs! I would usually make the Tea Eggs as a weekend afternoon snack, and to give to a friend or a neighbour.  

Oolong tea leaves

You can use any Chinese black tea, for this I have used oolong tea leaves. Other ingredients used are cinnamon stick, star anise, ginger, Chinese rice wine, sugar and light soy sauce. The spices gave the wonderful fragrance to these eggs. There are many other versions to make the tea mixture, some recipes uses other spices like cracked white pepper, cloves and mandarin peel.  I have added white cracked pepper before but have yet to try with mandarin peel.

I have adapted the recipe below to simmer the eggs using the slow cooker for 3 hours. Firstly you have to boil the eggs to hard-boiled and cooked. Refresh the cooked eggs under cool running tap water. Next, make the cracks on the shell. I made the cracks by using the back of a spoon. Knock the back of a spoon against the shell of the hard-boiled eggs and make cracks all over (you don't have to be gentle!), not just a few cracks, but make sure that the cracks are all over the egg and don't worry if the shells breaks a little. Do not remove the shell, as the cracks in the shell makes a very attractive marbling pattern on the eggs after simmering for a couple of hours in the tea mixture. Even though the shells can be removed before simmering in the tea mixture, it would not be so pretty and the eggs would look rather plain. Besides, the kids love it when they remove the shells themselves and find a very pretty looking egg inside!

Make the tea mixture by mixing all the other ingredients in a pot and boil over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Let it come to a full boil and pour the mixture into a slow cooker pot. Add in the eggs and set the slow cooker to high setting for 1 hour, and low setting for 2 hours.  You may remove one or two eggs for your immediate consumption and keep the rest in the tea mixture until needed.

You could however, chose to simmer the eggs in the tea mixture for 45 minutes to 1 hour, and letting the eggs steep in the mixture for a few hours until cold or even overnight. I have never tried this method before, as I have always use the slow cooker method of making these eggs.

Once the eggs are done, let it cool a little, remove the shells and you can see the marbling patterns on the egg. Cut in half and eat it as it is, or spoon just a little of the tea mixture over the eggs, or if you like, eat with some light soy sauce. However, in my house, we do not cut the eggs in half, we eat it by holding the peeled eggs and biting off chunks and drizzle with some of soy sauce over each bite. (An already bitten egg is not a very pretty picture, hence the cut halves above!). The eggs are actually good enough to eat it on its own, without any additional sauce or dips.

You need to plan ahead in order to enjoy these later, as it takes a few hours to simmer. The longer they are simmered in the tea mixture, the more flavourful the eggs will taste from all that spices and the black tea. But take note that, the perfect tea egg should have a perfect balance between the eggs' natural flavour and the spices. From my experiences, a few hours is just right, to get that balance. Simmering them too long, and the flavours from the spices and tea would dominate the flavours from the eggs, but then it really is a matter of preference. 

Full Plate Thursday hosted by Mz Helen's Country Cottage

Chinese Tea Eggs
(adapted from "The Food of China")
10 very fresh or 20 quail eggs
Tea Cooking Mixture :
3 tablespoons light soy sauce (I use 4 tablespoons, adjust to taste)
3 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
1 star anise
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 slices ginger, smashed with the flat side of a cleaver
3 tablespoons Chinese black tea leaves

Place the eggs in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and let the eggs simmer for 10 minutes, or until they are hard-boiled.
Refresh the eggs in cold water. Drain the eggs and lightly tap and roll the shells on a hard surface to crack them. Do not remove the shells.

Put the tea cooking mixture ingredients in a heavy-based clay pot, casserole or saucepan with 1 litre (4 cups) water and heat until boiling. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cooked eggs and simmer for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the tea mixture until cool enough to handle. Remove the shells and serve the eggs warm or cold, cut into wedges, with some of the cooking mixture on top.

kitchen flavour's notes :
To use the slow cooker :
After simmering the tea cooking mixture for 20 minutes, let it come to a boil and pour the mixture into the slow cooker pot. Add in the eggs. Turn heat to high and cook for 1 hour, and 2 more hours at low setting.



  1. I always learn about something new when I visit you, Joyce.

    These eggs are so pretty--like little works of art with all of the intricate patterns.

    Thank you for linking this week!

  2. My husband loves these tea eggs. We used to make this our own too.

  3. I loved these eggs. Never thought of making them though. Will try your recipe. Thanks

  4. Joyce, thanks so much for featuring tea eggs! I love these eggs and I always take deep breaths when passing by the herbal shops hah! hah! Now I want to make my own tea eggs too!

  5. Oh Joyce, I loves tea eggs alot.....the aroma of the tea eggs always had me to stop by to buy at the herbal shops. As I am typing away the comment here, I am visualising the aroma of the tea eggs.

  6. I just love tea eggs ! I usually eat it with steamed rice :D

  7. Hey, Joyce, I notice that this chinese tea eggs are very popular in Malaysia compares to SIngapore & HK. I kept seeing these tea eggs selling by Yu Ren Sheng & on my recent trip back to Malaysia, my cousin bought like 10 eggs from there & gave me some. Ethan & I had them & we really like it. That was the 1st time I had this tea eggs & it is a coincidence that my blogger friends had bought me a pack of pre-mix herbs to make this eggs. I have been thinking lately as to when to make them but you are right, this takes a long time to prepare & it is also the reason why I still haven't taken action yet. I love the marble patterns show on your eggs.

  8. Hi Joyce! I agree with Jessie... I saw lots of stalls/shops selling this in the shopping malls when I used to go across the causeway quite regularly many years ago... The aroma would fill the air whenever I walked past.... couldn't resist most of the time... Thanks for sharing.

  9. I love herbal / tea eggs! I can have half dozen but I could afford to eat this now as I need to watch my cholesterol level :(

    I would usually (thick-faced) ask an egg or two, from friends or colleagues who cook chinese tea eggs :p

  10. Mmm, these really do sound yummy. Thanks for sharing the directions. I hope to try these :)

  11. I've not make tea eggs for a while. I'll try out your recipe. I love the beautiful marbled pattern on your eggs. Looks like I've to acquired the knack of cracking the eggs in an artistic way!

  12. Wow! These are my favorite! I always let my nose lead me to the source of the smell whenever I am at shopping malls lol! Yummy!

  13. Oo la la..i can almost smell the aroma.. lama tak makan.

  14. I saw these marbley eggs on pinterest the other day & thinking of making this for easter . Yours looks so good & thanks for sharing this recipe. Now I don't have to look everywhere for the recipe! ;)

  15. I lived in Taiwan for several years back in the 60's and discovered tea eggs. I have been making them a couple of times a month ever since. Easy to do, taste great, look impressive and you can change the taste very easily to keep from getting bored.


    Jim K - San Dimas, CA