I absolutely love these marbled hard-boiled eggs. Popular with street vendors across China, they are exquisite to look at, taste mighty fine and are a doddle to make. This recipe is very easily adapted to make as many tea eggs as you like: you don’t really need to increase the spices and soy, just make sure the eggs are simmering in a single submerged layer. The longer you steep them post-simmering, the more pronounced the marbling and the tastier they get.
Note: you will need to begin this recipe at least 6 hours before you want to eat (the longer the better!), as the eggs need time to steep.
Put the eggs into a saucepan in a single layer and cover well with cold water. Set over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook for 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and place under cold running water until they are cool enough to handle.
Take one egg and cup it in the palm of your hand. With a teaspoon in the other hand, use the back of the spoon to gently tap the egg all over to form lots of tiny cracks, keeping the shell on the egg. Repeat with the other eggs.
Return all the eggs to the pan, again in a single layer, and just cover with cold water. Add the soy sauce, tea leaves, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and tangerine peel and set back on the hob over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours. Check every once in a while that the eggs are still submerged and top up with a splash more water if necessary.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the tea liquor. Once cold, transfer to the fridge and leave infusing for a minimum of 6 hours; they will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. The longer they steep, the stronger and more salty they will become. When you are ready to eat, simply peel and munch.