dragons' eggs (or chinese tea eggs)

chinese tea eggs
My family was divided as to what the strange, mottled boiled eggs that were sold at various corner grocers shops and hawker stalls in Kuala Lumpur were called. My mother and little brother were convinced that they these were tiny dinosaur eggs. My father and I were equally satisfied that they were dragons' eggs.

Fortunately for family unity, it turns out that we were all wrong. These little snacks are known as tea or tea leaf eggs, which is accurate if quite prosaic. In my head, they shall always be the far more beguiling dragons' eggs.

I love the marbled, mottled effect, which is one of the simplest ways to decorate an egg, although a little time-consuming as it is preferable to leave them overnight. Simply simmer the hard-boiled eggs in an aromatic soy sauce broth. The following day, peel and sit back and admire your stunning creative effort.

And let's not forget, they actually taste really good too - aromatic and salty flavours work beautifully with the creamy taste and texture of a hardboiled egg.

After I made these tea eggs, a friend came round with her 12 year old son. I offered her an egg and she recoiled with a rather melodramatic shudder. “Dear god, no, Rache! They look hideous! Ugh!” (“Alright, alright," I thought. “No need to milk it, love. I get the picture.”) As all this time her son, a young man of clearly impeccable taste, polished off two of the eggs, not at all put off by their sinister aspect. Greediness notwithstanding, this is a boy who will go far.

Skill level: Easy

150 ml soy sauce
50g sugar
½ tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp fennel seeds
8 cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
dried orange peel (optional)
3 teabags or 1 tbsp of loose-leaf tea
boiling water
6 eggs


  1. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, peppercorns, fennel, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, dried orange peel in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to boil, stir in the tea and set aside to steep for 20 minutes.
  2. Put the eggs in a saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain. Refresh under cold water.
  3. Take the back of a spoon and crack the egg shells. The cracks should be deep, although not so deep that you split the partially cooked egg open! These cracks are what will create the marbling effect.
  4. Place the eggs in the soy-tea liquid, and then carefully pour in enough boiling water to cover the eggs (about 500 ml). Bring back to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool for at least 4 hours (but preferably overnight).
  5. Peel carefully and sit back to admire your creativity. They taste pretty good too!

1 comment:

Kavey said...

Hideous? Your friend sounds both rude and dreadfully unadventurous -- we did patterned eggs like this at school in the 1970s, so hardly too frightening!!!