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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marbled Tea Eggs (Cha Ye Dan)

Tea eggs are perhaps the prettiest eggs you are ever going to see besides those painted for Easter, and tea eggs taste better.

Usually found as a street food in China, tea eggs are cracked hard boiled eggs that are heated in a mixture of spices, tea, and soy sauce for a period of time until the egg white gets infused with flavor. The pretty marbled pattern is the by-product of the shell being left on and the flavoring seeping through the cracks. You can completely peel the eggs and therefore bypass some of the steeping time, but I love the look of the marbled eggs.

The best thing about this recipe is you can let them steep as long as you like. The Chinese American bakery near my school has a crockpot of these simmering nonstop, and nothing is tastier than walking to class munching on one. The longer you simmer, the more deeply the flavor will penetrate. I know cooks that will let the eggs steep overnight in the cooking liquid, and who knows how long they simmer in that crockpot at the bakery to achieve such deliciousness!

I like these tucked into a bento, or chopped and mixed with a bit of mayo for an interesting egg salad. Try them warm and cold, I like both.

The kitty container is tea!
Star anise was harder to find than I expected, so you can always put some in if you find them, but I used Chinese five spice powder, which contains ground star anise anyhow. You can either use the five spice powder or use star anise and peppercorns.

Marbled Tea Eggs

6 eggs
1 cup shoyu
2 tbs black tea
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbs Chinese five spice powder
3 pieces star anise
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorn

cracked and ready to go!
Hard boil the eggs by your favorite method. I like to start with cool water, and heat over high heat, stirring the eggs constantly so the yolk stays in the middle. After the water boils, turn off the heat and continue to stir for a bit, then cover for 8-10 minutes.

Okay this looks weird but it tastes great
Cool the eggs by running cold water over them. Liberally crack the surface of the eggs with a spoon or a butter knife. Return eggs to the pot and fill with enough water to just cover the eggs. Add in the shoyu, cinnamon, tea, and five spice powder and stir. Turn the heat on to low and simmer for an hour covered. At this point I usually walk away, take a shower, walk the dog, etc. After an hour, turn off heat and let the eggs steep for an addition amount of time, I like about 5 hours up to overnight. If necessary, add more water to make sure the eggs are mostly covered. This batch pictured was only 3 or so hours, and you can see they are lightly marbled. I should have left them for longer, for better photographs and taste, but I was hungry!

You can now either eat right away, or refrigerate for about a week. If I don't have time for simmering and steeping on the stove top, I will refrigerate these in the cooking liquid for a couple days.

See Also:
Hapa Farm Girl: Eggs


  1. It really does look weird, but also delicious! I will have to try this. I have a dozen eggs sitting in my fridge that need an interesting new recipe!


  2. I know someone who buys bulk star anise, I can ask him where he gets it if you like :)
    He buys it whole then blends it for his own version of thai iced tea.

    1. Awesome! I would be interested in that

      Honestly I could probably get it in any Chinese grocery, or certainly online, but I wanted to make my recipe more accessible to people and you can find 5 spice powder in every grocery store.

    2. Hi Miss Mochi - where does the tea come in on the recipe?

    3. Little Mom, thanks for pointing that out! This is one of my older recipes and it got a little messed up during my blog's makeover. The recipe has been restored.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks - I'm going to try this out. I love your blog - so full of colorful beautiful photos and cool recipes. Keep up the good work!