These smoky tea and soy-marinated eggs bring to mind smoky campfires and South-East Asian spices. Add the spring flavours of asparagus and the velvety decadence of smoked salmon, and you have a three-piece that punches well above its weight.
A Combination Made in Utopia
There is something about salmon, asparagus, and egg, specifically runny egg yolk. It is a combination that is just so naturally synchronous. Even something as simple as this breakfast Banh Mi is just so delicious. The asparagus contributes an inherent freshness – a taste of spring. Cold-smoked salmon brings a velvety richness with aromas of smoke. And last but not least, the egg – the luscious decadence of runny yolk.
In this recipe, the egg gets extra special attention. It is marinated in smoky lapsang souchong tea, building on that smokiness of the salmon while adding the tannic and herbal notes of black tea.
Smoky Tea and Soy Marinated Eggs / Marbled Tea Eggs
Marbled tea eggs are a Chinese creation and popular street food throughout China and South-East Asia. Typically the eggs are hard-boiled, and the marbling is more important than the flavours added by the marination process. We shift the focus here – soft-boiling the eggs to have that delicious runny yolk. Also, a more complex marinade adds new layers of flavour to the eggs – inspired by ajitsuke tamago, the eggs you often get in a bowl of ramen.
Unlike ajitsuke tamago, tea remains a crucial ingredient in our smoky tea and soy-marinated eggs. And not just any tea – lapsang souchong tea. I have lots of memories of this tea. It has a distinct aroma that triggers specific memories of camping and cooking over an open fire.
Lapsang souchong is a Chinese black tea produced by drying tea leaves over a pinewood fire. It originated during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) in the Wuyi mountains. The British adopted the style – Twinings Lapsang Souchong tea is widely available. However, the more original Chinese product may also be available. I found mine in a specialist tea shop.
While the key ingredient, smoky tea is not the only ingredient contributing to the marinade. Star anise, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and soy sauce all make these smoky tea and soy-marinated eggs a unique taste experience.
Lapsang souchong tea also works incredibly well as one of the curing ingredients for this smoky tea cured salmon. Very different from the deli purchased smoked salmon used in this recipe.
Crack Your Eggs Gently
Achieving the marbling effect on marbled tea eggs involves cracking the eggshell of the cooked egg before marinating rather than removing it entirely as you would for ajitsuke tamago. However, soft-boiling the eggs introduces a challenge – it is more difficult cracking the shells without breaking the egg white and revealing the yolk.
After some trial and error, success is more likely if you start the shell shattering process at the ends of the egg and work towards the centre. Even so, be gentle. Prepare a few more eggs than you need, as accidents will happen.
How To Soft-Boil Eggs
If you can’t get enough of that just-perfect consistency of runny egg yolk, I recommend this excellent guide by J. Kenji López-Alt on Serious Eats. Kenji is also the author of one of my favourite cooking books: The Food Lab.
Smoky Tea Marinated Eggs with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon
- Prepare a bowl of iced water.
- Add water to medium sized saucepan to a depth of 30ml and bring to the boil.
- Put the eggs on a steamer tray and lower into the saucepan. Or use a steamer if you have one.
- Cover and steam for 5 minutes (exactly – use a timer).
- Remove the eggs from the saucepan and lower into the iced water.
- Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
- In another saucepan, bring the 750 ml water up to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and add the tea, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns.
- Add the soy sauce. Stir and allow to steep for 30 minutes.
- After the eggs have been in the iced water for 15 minutes, gently tap them all over with a metal spoon to crack the shell into a sort of spider web pattern. Start at the ends and work towards the middle to avoid splitting the egg. Do not remove the shell!
- Strain the tea and spices from the marinade.
- Place the eggs and the marinade into a ziplock bag and seal.
- Place in the refrigerator overnight.
- 18-24 hours later, remove the eggs from the marinade.
- Carefully peel the eggs revealing the marbled whites.
- Allow to come up to room temperature before serving.
- Remove the lower third from the asparagus spears and discard or keep for a stock.
- In a skillet, sear the asparagus spears in butter.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Lay out some slices of smoked salmon.
- Top with seared asparagus spears.
- Add a couple of marinated eggs.
- Drizzle a little truffle infused olive oil over the asparagus and salmon.