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.
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.
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!).
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.
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).
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.