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Monday, June 16, 2014

Tea Eggs

I'd always regarded tea eggs and soy eggs as 'those gross brown eggs'.  I'd seen them in magazines, on WTF foods posts and other features online.  They were mentioned alongside things like thousand year eggs, fermented fish, and unappetizing, pungent dishes that I wouldn't want near my face.  I'm usually quite open minded and will try anything twice, especially food.  However, many pickled, fermented, and 'keep it till it spoils and then unspoils' kinds of foods don't taste all that good to me.  Since the tea eggs appeared with foods most foul, I decided that they too must be yucky.

That is until I ate one.  A friend of mine from college met up with me in chinatown.  I was low on cash but I still wanted to hang out and catch up on life things.  Chinatown in Chicago offers a easy stress free way to do this.  No $7 coffees, or $25 meals.  Eight bucks can get you more food than you can feasibly eat.  We stopped in our favorite restaurant, Hing Kee, which, despite its growing popularity, hasn't suffered any diminishing quality in its food.  I ordered a ramen bowl.  It was only about $6.99 and came with a heap of veggies, meat and noodles.  Perfectly balanced meal.

What I wasn't expecting was the little addition on top of it.  A tea egg.  It was dull brown, and the stain had seeped into all parts of the egg white and yolk, turning them a strange ivory color.  I stared at it, shoved it aside and ate the rest of my food.  At the end of our meal and chat, my friend asked if I would eat the tea egg.  Let's face it, we both grew up with parents who believe in the clean plate club.  I carefully nibbled at it.  If I tasted it, I could at least abandon it with the excuse that it tasted weird.

It did taste weird... but not gross.  It was salty, had a mellow savory flavor and sharp sweet spices.  It was GOOD.  A week later I was craving the darn things, so I looked up some recipes online and tweaked them for my tastebuds.

A tea egg is much like a pickled egg.  Except the pickling process requires different ingredients.

1 1/2 cups of STRONG black tea
1 1/4 cups of dark soy sauce
1/4 tablespoons of chinese 5 spice
1 pinch of smoked paprika (I like my eggs smoky)
4 hard boiled eggs

After that, all you do is mix the liquid ingredients and the spices...and plunk the eggs into the mixture and set them aside in a covered bowl in the back of the fridge for a couple days.  The salt and fermentation from the soy sauce pickles the eggs, keeps them from spoiling and the rest of the flavors sink into them.

Take a look at my tea eggs.

Outsides, clean and unbroken...

The insides sport some of that brownish tint... I botched slicing them though.

They taste best when you eat them with an Asian style noodle dish.  By themselves, I find them to be a little too salty.

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