Tea Leaf Eggs Recipe

These tea-infused eggs can be found in the most random places – from Chinese herbal shops, to pasar malams (makeshi! markets), to your local 7-Eleven convenience store.

Traditionally, hard-boiled eggs are left simmering in a large pot of tea, soy sauce and spices throughout the day. The intoxicating scent would draw the customers, and the eggs would be warm and ready to serve instantly.

Unfortunately, that also means the egg whites turn rubbery and the yolks powdery. My version draws from the Japanese method of making ramen eggs. Instead of simmering the eggs, I marinate them for a day in the spiced brew.

To create that beautiful classic marbled pattern, I leave the eggs unpeeled but
gently crack the shells all over to allow the flavour and colour of the tea marinade
to seep through.

This recipe is extracted from Agak Agak, by Shu Han Lee (Hardie Grant Books £26). Photography by Ola O. Smit. 

Try Shu Han Lee's recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice or Clay Pot Rice with Shiitake and Chinese Sausage.

Ingredients for Tea Leaf Eggs

How to make Tea Leaf Eggs

  1. Let’s start with the tea marinade. Bring the water to the boil and add the tea bags, soy sauces, rice wine (if using), sugar and spices. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, before straining and cooling completely.
  2. Now for the eggs. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, enough to cover all the eggs in a single layer. Carefully lower the eggs into the boiling water one at a time. Turn the heat down to a medium–low so the water is at a gentle boil or an aggressive simmer. Cook for 6½ minutes, and when done, immediately transfer the eggs to a bowl of iced water to stop the eggs cooking.
  3. When the eggs are completely cool to the touch, gently crack all over with the back of a spoon. You want to make enough cracks to allow the tea marinade to seep into the egg, but be gentle as the eggs are softer-cooked than the usual hard-boiled eggs. Transfer the eggs to a container and pour the tea marinade over, making sure they are all submerged. Refrigerate for a day for the flavours to infuse. The eggs will be good for up to 4 days in the fridge as the marinade helps to preserve them. The longer you leave them, the saltier and deeper the flavour and colour.
  4. They can be served cold or warm – just gently warm the eggs in the marinade. When peeled, you should see a beautiful marble pattern all over the surface of the eggs.
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