Recently, I made my boyfriend, Chris, one of his favorite childhood snacks: cha ye dan, or tea leaf eggs! While it was my first time making flavor-infused boiled eggs, I was up for the challenge. I have been learning so much about Taiwan and Chris’s childhood that I wanted to do something special and make these eggs all on my own for him to enjoy!
There are many recipes online from which I drew inspiration, but this seems to be the one that Chris liked best (including recommendations from his dad):
- 1 heaping spoonful of black tea leaves (the ones we used were from Taiwan, but I am sure any loose-leaf black tea will do!)
- 1 clove of star anise (we used a large one, and the flavor was very strong. If you desire a stronger licorice flavor, use more)
- 6-8 tablespoons of soy sauce (originally, I used 3-4, but Chris prefers a stronger soy sauce flavor than most recipes called for)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
First, I placed the eggs in a pot of cold water, just enough to slightly cover the eggs. I brought the water to a boil and let boil for two to three minutes. Next, I drained the water and rinsed each egg with cold water, tapping lightly on the shells to crack the entire surface of each egg and making sure not to peel any of the eggs. The surface should look like a map of many small countries!
After, I filled the pot with cold water again and place the eggs inside, with about an inch of water above the eggs. I added all the ingredients to flavor the water and stirred lightly. Finally, I covered the pot and let the eggs come to a boil, then took the heat down to medium-low and let the eggs simmer for two to three hours (covering the pot allows for softer eggs).
Chris loved this snack! He said it reminded him of nai-nai’s (grandma, 奶奶) tea eggs. The only problem was they weren’t salty enough, so he suggested to add more soy sauce (I adjusted the recipe, explained above). Making these eggs was such a great adventure! We ate them with our dinner and as soon as we were done, Chris was asking for more! This made me feel so proud and excited to make more tea eggs, and I am even more excited to travel to Taiwan this winter and try nai-nai’s tea eggs myself!