I have been told that two of the ingredients the people of Jinan take pride in are Eggs and tomatoes. You see them everywhere. Quail eggs are what catch my eye most. Street vendors have special apparatus for grilling, frying and soup making with them. Of the vendors on the street outside my flat, the sweetest is a little old lady who sat by a huge pan, covered in salt with a small cave like opening. Inside beholds tiny speckled eggs. Every day I passed she beckoned me to stop. Eventually I found someone to translate and explain to me what tea eggs are. I bought a bag full. Thinking of horror stories of food born illnesses, it took me a bit to get the nerve to actually try one. What a revelation. They were perfect hard boiled eggs with a little salt and almost a caramel flavor from the tea. They were delicious.
For a week or so my smiling friend has resorted to selling pineapple, apparently out of eggs. I decided to get some fresh eggs at the grocery store and make my own. I picked some pretty blue eggs to try, not realizing they were also tea eggs. Whether because they are 3 times the size, or the cooks recipe, these were much saltier, too salty. The insides were creamy, not cooked like I had with the quail eggs. Definitely a disappointment.
To ensure that I have some for Ester and avoid making my own with disastrous results, I got my translator to find out the recipe for tea eggs from our neighborhood expert. This is what she does;
- As many eggs as you like (3 quail eggs will substitute for one from a chicken)
- Strong Green Tea or another variety of your choice
- Sea Salt
There should be enough tea so that your eggs are completely submerged with 1 inch of water over them. Add 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of sea salt to the water. Bring water to a rapid boil for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and cover pot. Allow the eggs to sit in this hot water for another 30 minutes.
Take the eggs out of water and put them in a bowl, covering it with sea salt. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. Your eggs whites will be colored and infused with the flavor of the tea and salt.
If you like eggs: