In parts of Asia (mainly Taiwan and China), the Simmered “Tea” Egg is commonly sold by street vendors (also at night markets) as a savory snack food. Basically, it’s a hard boiled egg, that has been simmered or steeped in a savory broth (flavored with the spices that make up Chinese 5 spice powder, soy sauce, and sometimes tea). There are peeled versions of the simmered egg that have an even brown/dark beige color, and there are also unpeeled versions of the simmered egg that have a whiter appearance with brown “cracks” (made by simmering unpeeled boiled eggs where the shell has been cracked – the broth seeps in through the cracks during the simmering process, creating the cracked appearance to the surface of the hard-boiled egg white).
When we were in Taiwan last year, I was excited to see my most favorite Taiwanese snack being sold at 7-11! I wish we had Asian style 7-11 convenience stores here in California… I’ll take a simmered egg any day over lukewarm nachos and hot dogs! The simmered eggs were on display on the counter at 7-11, kept warm in some type of rice cooker. Next to it, were various flavored/stewed meats, a big rice cooker full of steamed rice, and different condiments to add to your 7-11 snack bowl! Yum!!!
My recipe for simmered eggs took me several years to develop – and now I am happy to share that recipe with my readers! :) One thing I have learned about simmered eggs (from talking to a bunch of my friend’s moms and grandmothers) is that nobody has exactly the same recipe or technique. So feel free to tweak my recipe or adapt it to your preferred method – or not. I know some people prefer their eggs to have the cracked or mottled appearance – I prefer mine evenly brown, because I feel like the egg absorbs more flavor that way. Some people also like to simmer theirs longer, some people like to simmer theirs for a shorter period of time. For me, 1-2 hours on the stove tends to work out the best – but I have also left them in a slow cooker for up to 6 hours on low, and they have turned out great that way also. Also, I often omit the tea leaves when making these eggs because I’ve found that the leftover spiced broth makes a really good soup base (just strain and add beef broth, noodles, meat + veggies and serve!). (Shocking, I know! But – many Simmered Egg recipes actually don’t include tea! So add the tea, or don’t add the tea – your choice!)
Since Easter Sunday was yesterday – I figured many people probably have a bunch of Easter Eggs to use up and might be looking for a different way to use up the leftover hard-boiled eggs. (I know after Easter, I always get really sick of egg salad or deviled eggs!) Serve your simmered eggs over a small bowl of steamed rice for an easy breakfast, or afternoon snack. You can also just eat the egg as is, or with a side of steamed bread. Enjoy!
Taiwanese Simmered Eggs:
- 8-10 eggs
- 5 c. water
- 1/2 c. soy sauce
- 3 T. brown sugar
- 2-3 stalks green onion
- 1 bunch cilantro stems
- 2″ piece ginger
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- 3 beef flavored bouillon cubes
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns (optional)
- 1 tsp. black tea leaves (optional)
1. If your eggs are not already hard boiled (like leftover Easter Eggs), then place the raw eggs into a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn off heat, and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and run cold water over the eggs, and peel.
2. Chop your green onions into 2-3 inch pieces, chop the bottom stems off a bunch of cilantro, slice the ginger, and smash the garlic cloves with the back of a knife.
3. Measure out your spices: the anise, broken up cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, and regular black peppercorns. The fennel seeds and peppercorns will add more flavor – use them if you have them – however, if you don’t have them, it’s ok to leave them out. (I typically use everything, but will sometimes omit the tea leaves. The tea leaves will give the eggs a darker color – but if you don’t add the tea, then you can use the leftover spiced broth as a soup base – just mix with beef broth to taste.)
4. Place the green onion, cilantro stems, garlic, and ginger in the bottom of a medium sized pot. Place the peeled hard-boiled eggs on top. Cover with the water, soy sauce, brown sugar, and the rest of the ingredients. Set over medium high heat and bring to a boil.
5. Cover and reduce the heat to low, and allow the eggs to simmer for 1 – 2 hours. (The longer you simmer, the darker the egg will end up, and the stronger the flavor. But also keep in mind that the eggs will also absorb more flavor as as you store them in the broth.)
6. Store the eggs in a covered bowl or container, in the cooled broth, in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days.
7. To serve, slice the warm simmered egg in half, and drizzle with a little bit of hoisin sauce, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro leaves. Serve over a scoop of rice, or with a side of steamed bread.