Tea Egg Salad

by Marina Chotzinoff

Last Chinese New Year I decided to make a veritable feast. Tea eggs were perhaps the most festive looking and versatile pairing item on the menu. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but the steeping liquid seeps into the eggs giving them a subtle, but lovely spiced flavor that complements so many other dishes. I had left the leftover eggs in the liquid for yet another day, peeling, chopping and mixing with mayo for a divine egg salad. To improve things even more, I added thin slices of a black bean, tea braised pork rib to some tiny canap├ęs for a flavor-packed, bite-sized snack. And thus, a new favorite worked its way into my repertoire.

Serves 12 appetizers
12 eggs
3 cups water
3 Lapsang souchong tea bags or 3 T loose
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise pods
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon szechuan peppercorns (black peppercorns work too)
1/3 cup mayo
1 scallion, thinly sliced
pepper
rice crackers

Put eggs in one layer in pot and cover with water. Bring to simmer, turn off heat, cover and let sit 4 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water. Gently crack all over with the back of a spoon enough to make a spider web of cracks, but not break the egg.

Put eggs back in empty pot, add all ingredients through szechuan peppercorns. Bring to a boil then reduce to the lowest simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool then steep overnight if possible or as long as you can.

Reduce one cup steeping liquid by half. Mix 3 teaspoons with mayo, green onion and black pepper.

Carefully peel eggs. Serve six as is with smoked salt and slice and gently fold remaining six with mayo mixture. Or double mayo, admire whole eggs and mix them all. Serve on rice crackers with cilantro and pepper.

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