My dad is an excellent cook. He can make anything taste delicious. He’s also taught me some very important cooking lessons, such as: Just because you want to get rid of that last bit of cilantro before if turns brown and slimy, doesn’t mean you should throw all of it into your guacamole. Together, we’ve been known to throw a Chinese dinner party or two, as this here blog has documented.
On a trip to London last month, I learned how to make one of my Pops’s favorite fusion starters — tea eggs in a nest of julienned vegetables. I’m delighted to share it with you now, mes amis!
Start with a bevy of speckled quail’s eggs — aren’t they pretty? — about 30 of them. After you’ve hard-boil-cooked the eggs, crack the shells and then simmer them again, this time with a handful of loose black tea, a few star anise pods and a dash of dark soy sauce.
Here’s what the eggs look like once they’ve been cooked in tea. Allow them to sit in this liquid overnight, or, if stored in the fridge, for a few days. This step is important because it allows the dark cooking liquid to seep across the surface of the egg, creating a lovely marbled effect.
When you’re ready to serve the eggs, gently peel them. Toss a salad of finely julienned daikon radish and carrot with a sesame vinaigrette. Create a nest of vegetable salad on each plate and nestle the eggs — we served three to a person — on top before adding a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Pops has been making this entrée for years, but because he’s an inventive cook, it keeps evolving. I really love this latest incarnation, a plated first course, with the nest surrounded by cool cubes of tofu salad (which is another recipe for another day).
Quail tea eggs in a vegetable nest
30 tea eggs
3 tablespoons loose black tea
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
8-10 star anise pods, either whole or the equivalent in bits
2 cups water
Place quail eggs gently in pot with two cups water or enough to cover eggs. Bring to boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until eggs are good and hard. Rinse under cold water to cool. Crack each egg by tapping all around with a teaspoon or rapping on its sides as you turn it. Return the eggs to the pot.
Add 2 cups water again. Then, add rest of ingredients — tea, soy, anise — and bring to boil. Lower heat, and simmer for a good hour or more with lid on. Turn off heat and let stand overnight or transfer everything (eggs, liquid, tea, anise, etc.) to a small container and refrigerate. May keep this way for at least three or four days in fridge.
The day of using the eggs, carefully peel off the egg shell. You will find a beautiful marbling effect on the surface of the eggs where it contacts the shell.
The actual work time, not including cooking time is very quick … about ten minutes. The unknown work time is in the peeling of the eggs.
Julienned vegetable nests
1 daikon, peeled
1/4-1/2 carrot, peeled
2-3 green onions
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons high quality sesame oil
Salt (if needed)
Finely julienne the daikon for the base, add a bit of julienned carrot for color, and some finely sliced green onions. Toss the vegetables with a few tablespoons of vinaigrette, adding more if needed.