Dying eggs is definitely one of my favorite (secular) Easter traditions. There is something so magical and special about creating a colorful masterpiece on a simple egg! Throughout the years, I have tried my hand at various egg-dying methods. I used to yearn for special dye kits with extra stickers or markers to create interesting designs on the eggs before dying. One year I bought a marbled egg kit, which was mediocre at best. As I delved into the culinary world, I stunk up the kitchen one year as I experimented the natural dying methods…boiling red cabbage, beet, and turmeric. I must say I was happy with the results despite the extra work it took! Honestly though, the classic Paas dye tablets always seem to call my name, providing the brightest colors that my heart desires!
However, China has introduced me to a new method of dying and flavoring eggs. Tea eggs are a staple snack food across China, sold at restaurants, street vendors, and convenience stores. What makes them unique is the method- the eggs are boiled until firm (like normal), then the outer shell is cracked all over, and the eggs are reboiled in a mixture of tea and spices! The result is not only a darkly dyed egg shell, but once the shell is removed, the result is a “stained glass” dyed egg with added flavor and fragrance!
The method is easy to recreate at home:
1) Place 6 eggs in a pot. Cover with cold water and place over medium heat. Let the water boil, then simmer the eggs 5 minutes until firm.
2) Remove the eggs and rinse with cold water. Now crack the egg against a hard surface so the shell is covered in cracks! (It’s ok, wack that egg, gently but forcefully. The more cracks the better. I even like removing some of the shell so that the tea can seep in more).
3) Place the cracked eggs back into an empty pot. Add 1/2 cup soy sauce. 2 Tablespoons tea of your choice. 1 Tablespoon Chinese 5-Spice (or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, whole spices- whatever you have on hand), orange peel. Then fill with water until the eggs are covered. *The great thing about thing about this recipe is you can experiment! There is no “right” way to do it! The type of soy sauce you use, tea, and spices will change the flavor. I have been using dark soy sauce and both black & Oolong tea.
4) Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes. Then turn off the flame and let the eggs sit and soak in all that goodness. I have found the best results soaking the eggs for 4-5 hours. I personally don’t taste a difference in soaking them longer than that time.
Note: These delicious eggs will only keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
However, being in China is no exception to dismiss my love for classic egg-dying. Being the overachieving teacher that I am, I decided that my students needed to experience the bliss of egg dying as well! I headed to the grocery store this week, looking for the cream-colored eggs to purchase. “Yi bai er ji dan” I told the produce clerk. “Yi bai er?” She questioned. I nodded, yes I needed 120 eggs.
Carting them home, I boiled and cleaned them in multiple batches, then packaged them back up to take to the University. It was worth the joy on my students faces at being able to transform a simple egg into a colorful masterpiece!
But even more so, being able to share the story of Christ and the reason behind Easter was incredibly powerful. Though I was nervous about how to elaborate (it being a sensitive subject in China), I felt like the Lord really guided my words and presence. The most meaningful aspect for me, was breaking down the story into tangible points and in simple words. In a way, stripping away the fine details made the most powerful elements stick out…Jesus praying in the garden in vulnerability or Jesus forgiving his accusers at the cross. For most of my students, this was the first time they had heard the Resurrection story and they seemed to take it with respect. I couldn’t be more grateful and thank you all for the prayers you have sent this way.
As usual, I will celebrate on Sunday with our foreign teacher community and am thrilled to have a great excuse to do major cooking and baking :)