Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Chinese Smoked Tea Eggs

Chinese smoked tea eggs possess aesthetic and gastronomic qualities that smooth the jagged edges of winter. In a season where everything in nature is stripped down and bare, this simple yet exotic preparation of eggs inspires the  the appetite with mesmerizing patterns and voluptuous earthy flavor.

Lapsang Souchong is a bit of an oddity to the western teetotaler, whose palate is unaccustomed to the savory flavors of this pine-smoked tea. Many store-bought Lapsang Souchong teas have been fired to conceal inferior quality leaves and the tarry notes are overpowering for most tastes. Upton Tea’s Lapsang Souchong is sourced from China and is less smoky than traditional Fujian versions, offering appealing characteristics of dry spice and wood.

Fire is one of the most powerful elements known to humankind and smoked foods are marked with its transformative verve. Rise above the stark chill of the season with a smoky and tasty antidote by indulging in Chinese smoked tea eggs.

Chinese Smoked Tea Eggs
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd

· 1 dozen eggs (rinsed of any residue that may be on the shells)
· two points of a whole star anise
· 3 tablespoons of Lapsang Souchong Tea
· 8 cups of water
· ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
· one block of firm tofu, cut into fifths*

· 2-quart cooking pot
· 2-quart bowl for rinsing eggs
· tongs
· 2 ¼-quart plastic storage container with lid
· measuring cup
· ladle
· 4-cup plastic container with lid*
*Option to make tea smoked tofu using reserved liquid from tea eggs.

· Fill the pot with water, star anise and tea. Heat on medium and keep the lid on.
· When water begins to boil, gently add eggs using tongs and reduce flame to medium/low. Place the lid on the pot, leaving an opening for steam to escape.
· Cook for 15 minutes. When done, remove from heat.
· Remove eggs one by one with tongs and place into a bowl of cold water for 3-4 minutes.
· Ladle tea from the pot into the plastic storage container, keeping tea leaves out. Extract the star anise and place it in the tea broth. Slowly add low sodium soy sauce from your measuring cup into the brew. Stir with ladle to incorporate.
· Tap each egg firmly against a counter to promote cracks. The idea is to create crevices that will be permeated by the savory tea. Place eggs into plastic storage container, making sure that the eggs are completely submerged in the liquid. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Secure the container and refrigerate for 8-10 hours.
· Remove the tea eggs from the refrigerator, reserving 2 cups of the liquid in a 4-cup plastic container. Place eggs in a heavy-duty freezer bag and return to the refrigerator. The eggs will keep for 5-7 days. When you remove the shell, beautiful marbled patterns will emerge and the eggs will be redolent of tea, smoke and spice.
· The reserved tea liquid can be used to marinate tofu. Cut a block into 5 slices refrigerate in the tea brew for 24 hours. You can use the tofu the next day or let it soak for two more days if you don’t plan on using all of it at once. The outside of the tofu will turn a soft shade of brown and all of the flavor in the liquid will gently infuse the tofu. Smoked tea tofu is great cubed in soups or prepared scrambled with onions, shitake mushrooms and a touch of sesame oil and salt.

Photo of eggs from Speak Peppery.