Right outside our Chinatown office, a line forms late in the afternoon in front of a Chinese man’s supermarket cart loaded with a huge pail of black liquid. I took a peek once and realized that hard-boiled eggs were floating in it. I’ve heard of tea eggs before but I’ve never had them, so the last time I walked by the cart, I bought six tea eggs for a dollar.
My Chinese friend Shao told me she grew up eating them whenever her parents would make them at home. I’ve read that they are traditionally a Chinese New Year snack, but nowadays people line up for them whenever they feel like eating eggs.
Back at home, I took the eggs out of the plastic bag, put them in a bowl and disposed the liquid. I noticed that the shells were a little bit cracked. When I took the shells off, the cracked shell made a pretty pattern on the egg. I did some research and found out that the marinade has soy sauce, star anise and cinnamon sticks together with the brewed black tea. The hard-boiled eggs are tapped gently in order for the shells to crack a little bit and then simmered in the marinade for an hour or two so that the black color stains the shell and the cooked egg inside, leaving that ornate pattern.
Eating hard-boiled eggs past noon might be weird to some people, but I had one while I was making dinner and I thought it was a lovely treat to keep the hunger pangs from gnawing.