It’s Chinese new year coming up on February 14th, and it’s a particularly significant date for yours truly because it ushers in the Year of the Ultimate Badass Tiger, which is my Chinese zodiac animal. It’s also my brother’s birthday. Happy birthday, Patrick!
I can’t believe I hadn’t realised this was my year until the other day. I was always so proud of being a tiger when I was a kid, when all my friends were stupid oxen and rabbits and sheep and stuff. In case you don’t know, the Chinese Zodiac moves on a twelve year cycle, making your personal years few and far between. When I saw a calendar at Uwajimaya illustrated with a tiger I was completely thrilled. (And then my second thought was, ‘oh hell, that must mean I’m thirty-six.’) Checking the first random website I came across, I learned that tigers are “short-tempered, suspicious, adventurous, sensitive, emotional, and risk-taking.” What the hell? What is this crap? Who are you calling short tempered and suspicious??… Oh, wait. Yeah, that’s pretty much me in a nutshell. So break out the lion costume and start tossing small explosives about haphazardly, it’s a new year!
For Chinese new year, you need to eat tea eggs. I can’t remember where I first found the recipe for these, but I was pretty young. They’re an amazingly appealing dish and fun to make – perfect for kids. Here’s what you do.
Place four eggs in a saucepan and cover with about an inch of cold water. Bring the pot to a boil and let simmer gently for three minutes. Take out the eggs and cool them under running water, but don’t throw away the water in the pot.
Now take a teaspoon and crack the shell of the eggs all over. You can experiment with the force required to do this, but in general deeper and more plentiful cracks make prettier eggs. You don’t want to crack so hard, though, that the shell busts completely open. That would ruin everything.
Now put the eggs back in the saucepan, and add some or all of the following ingredients:
½ cup dark soy sauce
2 teabags of black tea (I used Russian caravan)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbs Sichuan peppercorns (can be hard to find… they are very hot)
1 tsp sugar
2 star anise
½ tsp Chinese five spice
Bring the liquid back to a simmer for about 45 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, cover it, and let steep for a good long time, at least five hours. I left mine overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day, or a few hours later if you’re from one of the impatient zodiac signs, carefully peel away the shell. The results can be quite striking.
Here’s a fun fact: in Taiwan, an average of 40 million tea eggs are sold each year through 7-Eleven stores alone. Happy new year!