Monday, February 18, 2008

Tea eggs, tea leaf eggs, 茶葉蛋








Tea eggs, tea leaf eggs, 茶葉蛋.

Taken from stall near Sun Moon Lake - 日月潭 (pronounced Ri Yue Tan) , a scenic attraction in central Taiwan.

If you want to make tea leaf eggs at home, you can refer to my blogging friends - Flog & Rosbif and Little Corner of Mine. In a gist, the aroma of tea leaf eggs is quite distinct (you can smell it afar) and the marble-effect design is something that mystifies me more than eating the egg itself.

How to get the marble effect - boil the eggs twice. After the first boil when the egg hardens, the shell of each egg is lightly cracked/tapped around, without peeling. Make sure the cracked shell stays intact. Then, put these "lightly cracked" eggs to a second boil. The little cracks will allow flavour of the tea into the egg. To me, this is somewhat like a traditional etching process - where parts of the egg protected by the intact shell still maintains a color of white or pale beige while the areas of crack lines are exposed to the darkening stain of the tea immersion and you get a more intense darkened brown cracked (spiderweb-ish) line pattern around the egg. THAT is absolutely ART!

Talking about tea eggs, there is the "7-eleven-type" convenience store(only in Taiwan?) tea egg; there is also the traditional kind in the larger snapshot above that calls itself "Granny's tea eggs" - 阿婆茶叶蛋. It's famous, you know. Most of the stall owners near Sun Moon Lake area swears by this name "Granny's tea eggs" - 阿婆茶叶蛋 (a power marketing brand or tool?) as apparently, there is a true story about this lady who sold special tea eggs around that area for 40+ years, from young till she became Grandma! To many people, these eggs taste particularly flavorful. Other than the typical tea + five spice aroma and flavor, there is an additional taste of nostalgia in it - what they call 古早味. It took me a while to understand. Literally, it meant 古味 or "taste of the past". Sometimes, as food and tradition get infused with too much excitement and creativity; and when we start to experience new flavors, there comes a time when we will start re-tracing to the basic roots of food and its traditionally origin taste - its authenticity and simplicity - both which are somehow partially lost when we seek ways to improve.

These "Granny's tea eggs" - 阿婆茶叶蛋 are also special because of two secret ingredients. Both ingredients which the mountainous area around Sun Moon Lake are famous for - Assam tea-阿萨姆红茶 (a tea with hint of malt aroma, rose incense, and concentrated flavor) and mushrooms! According to sources, the eggs are first cooked in assam(red) tea + salt; set aside to cool; then lightly tapped around to create the crack lines; thereafter immersed into a broth of mushroom + assam tea+ spice conconction, to slowly cook for 6+ hours!

Maybe you can try perfecting Granny's recipe at home!

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