Making Tea-smoked Eggs

Tea-Smoked Eggs (Interior)

This is a classy blog with standards, so there will be absolutely no puns about the eggsperiences of an eggciting eggsperiment with tea.

Mere tea eggs are too easy for an industrious Sunday afternoon, so to kick up the flavor a notch, this blog decided to smoke the eggs. After all, is it not written: “Smoke ’em if you got ’em”?

To begin, you first hard-boil a batch of eggs. There is no standard recipe (other than boil water, insert egg, wait, plunge in cold water) as a wiseman once said: “The stove is woman. She’s a mean bitch who will stab you in the back the moment you’re not looking, so you have to learn her and know her every move and temperament”.

If you see signs of green coloration on the yolk, then you've over-boiled it.

One thing about hard-boiled eggs with runny yolks: because they are still very soft, a lot of care is required when de-shelling them. The standard way of rolling them across the table top only results in a mess. I did the quail eggs version, it was so painful that I ended up eating them with a straw. So to answer Daphne‘s question of whether I can get tea-smoked eggs with runny yolks, the answer is yes, but it’s a pain to de-shell. Especially with short fingernails. Do share your eggshell-peeling tricks.

Next is the soak; this is where you soak the eggs in a liquor made from many herbs and spices. There are two ways of doing this: buy a prepackaged bag of herbs and spices from an Apothecary or you can, like this blog, do your own mix.

Soaking in my special brew

Well of course I did my own mix; that’s because I was going for a particular flavor profile. What went in the pot was a very thick Oolong tea (it’s smokey, alternatively you may use Longjing for a fuller taste), a pinch of 5-spice powder (this is strong stuff, so be sparing), sesame oil (not too much) and very good Soy Sauce.

The Soy Sauce is important to me, so I used my own blend of premium Kikkoman soy sauce mixed with Ginseng Chicken Broth (about 7:3 ratio). I discovered this blend when my mom cooked Herbal Chicken with Ginseng (when we were kids) and as I dipped the chicken (with some broth spilled in) in soy sauce, after a while, the soy sauce tasted very very good. So I tend to save the soy sauce for use over a few days.

Once you’ve got the marinade to the correct taste, put the eggs in for an hour or so, stirring occasionally to make sure every surface gets coated. Yes, the marinade should be cool before you put in the eggs.

Technically, after an hour or so, you get tea eggs. It’s edible, savory and good. But seriously, we want tea-smoked eggs.

Filter and save some of the marinade.

So…, line your wok (or a strong pot but not cast-iron) with foil. Make sure the foil overlaps the edge of the wok as you want to form a seal with the cover.

After Marinade, Before Smoking

The smoke mix is your standard rice, sugar and tea (ratio of 3:1:1) except that I find white sugar produces a more acrid taste, so I used brown sugar instead. Put the mix into the foil-lined wok, cover the wok and turn on to high heat.

Karl Dobler of Au Petit Salut noted that while you can use induction stoves to do smoking, it takes longer (some may not work because of the foil) and more importantly, induction stove-smoking gives, according to him, a “strange taste”.

Of course, at this juncture, you should have all windows open and fans work at high-speed.

Once you see a small wisp of smoke, you may place the eggs on a steamer inside. If you don’t have a steamer (which is hard to believe in an Asian kitchen), you can use chopsticks like this.

Not really a lot of smoke... Until you lift the cover...

Seal the wok and the cover with the overlapping foil and wait. For chicken eggs, it’s 2-4 minutes.

There’ll be very little smoke if you do a good seal but after 3 minutes (that’s how long I did it), you get deliciously tea-smoked eggs.

Tea-Smoked Eggs (Interior)

I served the tea-smoked eggs cold, in a pool of the filtered marinade. There was a smokey sweetness that added a lot of depth to the savory tea eggs. The finish, according to my co-workers (who make good guinea pigs taste subjects), was very long and some could taste the dry “Kam” sensation in the mouth.

This is something I would serve, in a non-office environment, with a nice Billecart-Salmon NV Rose or the feminine Perrier-Jouët Brut or heck, a beer. I mean, what could be better?


After Smoking

Posted on 7th Sep 2009 in Chinese, Food and Drink, Fun, Recipes


There Are 15 Comments


ladyironchef commented on September 8, 2009 at 8:55 am

nice photo of the runny yolk! you only cook 5 eggs? where got enough! hahahaha


Justin Pereira commented on September 9, 2009 at 11:27 pm

the tea smoked eggs look fabulous. very different from the ones we get outside. but what would you mean by that “kam” sensation?


ivan commented on September 10, 2009 at 12:41 pm

@lic: Technically, according to a friend, eating 1 egg a day is about right. Too much of a good thing is not good.


ivan commented on September 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm

@Justin Pereira: I’d like to know where you get Tea-Smoked Eggs outside.

The “Kam” (Cantonese) or “Gan” (Mandarin) sensation refers to the dry bitter-to-sweet cooling finish. It is found in very good tea.


Justin Pereira commented on September 13, 2009 at 6:23 pm

I had some in a chinese restaurant once, and it came in a steaming basket. The colour was more of just a tinge of brown and a light scent of the tea. Hmmm…now which restaurant was it in. tsk.


ivan commented on September 14, 2009 at 7:50 am

Awww… Tea-smoked eggs are very rare (because operationally it’s not worth the trouble) and people tend to mistake simple tea eggs for it.

Tea-smoked eggs do not have a light scent of tea.


Justin commented on September 19, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Then I believe we got scammed. !!! LOL..sigh wanted to try some tea smoked eggs. the authentic ones


Jonathan commented on October 1, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I tried smoking with tea alone and it burnt very quickly, does the rice prevent this from happening? I’ve also read that one should steep the tea leaves first then smoke them (akin to soaking skewers before using them for kebabs), have you tried this?


ivan commented on October 2, 2009 at 10:43 am

@Jonathan: You need the rice and brown sugar, but there’s no need to layer them (I just toss them in my foil-lined wok). I suppose the rice does help prevent burning too quickly and the brown sugar adds a nice caramel flavor to the smoke. Do not use cast-iron containers or induction hobs.

Regarding the wet tea leaves, you are thinking of BBQ smoke pouches where the composition is 50% wet wood chips and 50% dry wood chips. This is used for long smoking (couple of hours), i.e. smoked pork ribs in BBQs. You can use this method for eggs (but not using tea-leaves because they dry-out and burn too easily) if you skip the hard-boiling and marinade steps. But I am not experienced enough with BBQ to control the doneness of the eggs.

Hope this helps.


[…] blog spent the month mostly on home-cooking like Tea-Smoked Eggs and Cold Soba but he was invited to taste the best of what the new Food Opera had to offer. And by […] | Feed 2009 commented on January 14, 2010 at 11:35 am

[…] am a home cook with the occasional touch of whimsy and a penchant for meat but if you want the recipe for what I’ve done, let me know. […]


james commented on December 21, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Does the smoking impart a bitter taste? My sugar got burnt during the process. Is it normal?


Ivan commented on December 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

There is some (very little) bitterness but not so much that it’s off-putting. The Cantonese call it “Kum”; doesn’t really translate to “bitterness” but close (see 4th comment above).

Burnt sugar probably means you’ve left the heat on too long. Once the smoking process has started, I usually turn off the heat.


amiekim commented on September 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I was looking for a recipe for the type of smoked eggs that are served in Korea, most often in spas. They are called ??? (hoon-jeh-ran).

I’ve never had tea-smoked eggs; I’m accustomed to tea eggs that were soaked with the shells cracked, but still on. The cracked method makes a really nice crackle pattern on the egg once it’s peeled, but the soaking process is a lot longer.

Are your soaking and smoking methods Singaporean, or Chinese…? I suspect that I will have to have a Korean-speaking friend find a specifically-Korean recipe.


Ivan commented on September 8, 2012 at 11:02 am

It’s Chinese in the method and ingredients.

The soaking takes at least an hour or so to get the marbled pattern. What I don’t like is that they tend to over-cook the eggs. Alas.

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