Thursday, January 22, 2009

All Tea'd Up

Shepard Fairey commemorative poster goes on sale 1/23 here
In his commentary on President Obama's inaugural speech, one BBC pundit observed that Obama had "teed up a lot of balls" referring to goals set for his first term.

I remember thinking that was such a guy thing to say, comparing the goals in a speech to playing golf.  Then I thought about how appropriate the imagery was, really.  You can tee up all the balls you want.  Until you hit one and see where it lands though, you haven't really accomplished much.  Intentions won't count for much months from now.  It will be actions we will react to.  Walking the talk, so to speak.
Getting started - assembling the ingredients for steeping the eggs.

I decided to stop admiring and to try and make Marbled Tea Eggs, a typical Chinese New Year dish on my own.  I wanted to see if I could get results anywhere near as photogenic as the eggs displayed in the post by Jaden Hair of Steamy Asian Kitchen.

Naturally I did not have all the ingredients on hand. Why am I typically drawn to recipes where that is the case? There must be hundreds, no, thousands of recipes out there all calling for stuff I already have in my fairly well stocked kitchen/pantry.  Do I attempt those?  No,  I keep getting drawn away to try out dishes with ingredients I've never used before.  Or tasted yet.
Nobody here but us totally justifiably purchased herbs and spices!
Some people might call that adventurous. Others might call it "the reason why you have a cabinet chock full of jars and bottles of things you have only used once and cannot seem to throw away and why it takes you a full 20 minutes to find your jar of vanilla.".

I think making substitutions can be easier when you have no idea of how a dish is "supposed" to taste. I do know how these eggs are supposed to look. Jaden's photograph makes it very clear how gorgeous these eggs can be.
See why I wanted to try these?  Here is the photo from Jaden's post.  These eggs are amazing looking inside and I weirdly like how you have to destroy them to get inside to the marbling when you are ready to eat the eggs.  

But how they are supposed to taste? I have no idea but will reserve judgement on my own version until I get a finished product. More good news on that later, hopefully.

Apropos of nothing much but how cool is this?  Presidential Teas by jack cheng

Back to our ingredients or lack thereof.  After you soft boil (3 minutes), cool under running water and then  gently crack your eggs according to the recipe, you are to add the following:
3/4 cup soy sauce 
2 star anise 
2 tablespoons black tea (or 2 tea bags) Got the two tea bags, one with flavoring added which I think will be OK
1 cinnamon stick 
1 teaspoon sugar 
1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorn (optional) Don't have these
2 strips dried tangerine or mandarin orange peel (optional) Don't have these either but this is why I think the peach/ginger flavored tea is an OK sub

I checked on the sichuan peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns are a spice, not really a peppercorn at all. They are not "hot" but will make your mouth/tongue go numb if eaten in sufficient quantity. (is that a good thing?) According to Wiki, they have a slightly lemony taste and are often part of Chinese 5 spice mixtures.

Seeing as I didn't have the peppercorns or the citrus peel and couldn't find my 5 Spice, I decided to throw in a tablespoon of coriander instead. Crazy? Maybe. I'll let you know after the eggs have steeped and are ready to sample.

A couple of comments. Jaden recommends using a teaspoon and a gentle hand to crack the eggs. I found that worked well, but would advise you start your cracking on the midsection (as opposed to either end) of your partially boiled eggs so you can get a feel for how hard to strike the eggs to have them crack but not break apart. There are often air pockets (especially if your eggs are slightly less than fresh from the store as mine were) at one end of the egg and if you go barreling into that more fragile end space you are likely to lose the integrity of your eggshell (I guess, ahem!).

I used brown eggs and that ought not be too big a problem because egg whites are all, well, white on the inside so the results should be close enough.  Time will tell.

One fun note. When I lowered my cracked eggshells into the steeping liquid, they made a great little hissing noise as air escaped from under the shells. That is just one of many reasons this would be a fabulous activity to share with young (or young at heart) folks.The eggs smell pretty fabulous while they steep albeit in a soy saucey way. I find myself craving fried rice or sushi which is not so bad but be forewarned. If you like soy sauce and the foods that soy sauce is served with/on, then perhaps you will need to have something like that to gnosh on while you are steeping your eggs so your stomach doesn't stage a coup on your lunch plans.  

Fast forward four hours of steeping>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Here is an egg at four hours whole and peeled.You can see my eggs have not picked up as much color yet as Jaden's but I simply had to taste one. It is an interesting blend of flavors, very delicate sweetness with a sort of meaty overtone from the soy. It was a little bit like what would happen if beef jerky married a hard boiled egg and they had a baby. (See how old/square I am? My imaginary foodstuff family isn't having a love child, they actually got a license first. )

OK - next day. Here is another egg that steeped overnightand you can see that the marbling inside continued to deepen and intensify.Were Chinese Tea Marbled Eggs all they are cracked up to be? (Sorry - you had that coming).

I'd meant to save this egg for lunch but it smelled so good once I peeled it I had it for breakfast instead.

The brown eggs do not work quite as well as white eggs will naturally.  Even the brown eggs yielded dramatic results overnight however. They are subtly flavored in a smoky slightly sweet way and I am eager to share them with the Hub. Don't wait for a special occasion to try this technique out for yourself. Once you have seen and tasted one, you'll be looking for reasons to make Marbled Tea Eggs time and time again.












3 comments:

Flapjacks said...

purdy.

wv - unall - as in, "that's purdy, unall... but how'd it taste?"

PassivePastry said...

those are beautiful....and they probably taste wooorlds better than my 1000000000 year duck eggs!

TexasDeb said...

True confession here - I used eggs to do this I would ordinarily have thrown out. And y'all know me - I never throw out almost ANYthing.

I wanted to see how they would turn out mostly. It was the visual I was after.

But. The aroma leads to nibbling which leads to finishing it off and thinking, "wow - I wonder how good this would taste if this were a FRESH egg..".

Try it and see (and EAT). It is easy, most of the time involved is you living your life while they steep, and they are sophisticated and subtle in flavor. One more reason to respect an ancient cuisine and the culture that inspired it.

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