Delicious Tea-Eggs – Xiang Cha Lu Dan

Let’s have a look at some Asian packaging innovations. The next few articles will describe some interesting and creative packages from several South-East Asian countries. First the Tea-Eggs from PR China and Taiwan.

Never before were tea-eggs pre-packaged. Marbled Tea Eggs (cha ye dan) are one of the most popular and typical Chinese snacks, sold solely by street vendors and in night stalls in most Chinese communities throughout the world.
The XuanHui pre-packaged tea eggs, to be found in the supermarket refrigeration section, are shrink wrapped giving it a bulbous packaging. It looks like they make these in really long strips and the supermarket can cut to 3 packs, or 1 packs if they like. Although packing (boiled) eggs, individually, is not usual, the used film is not special and is only a laminate with an oxygen barrier.

Tea Eggs are simply hard-boiled eggs, which are boiled a second time in a salted tea extract. Tea Egg is a kind of alkaline food, boiled with medicinal spices. It not only stimulates the appetite, but is also good for the liver and breaks off alcohol.

Although so called, tea is not the dominant flavour. The scale of the hard-boiled eggs are slightly cracked with the convex side of a spoon and the eggs are then boiled in an aromatic spiced tea-based fluid with Chinese five-spice powder. This gives the peeled eggs a marbled pattern of white and brown, while the eggs received a delicate soy and anise taste. The process requires between one and three hours.

The industrial process, however, has violated the appearance of the product itself. Instead of their surface having a blurry cracked pattern, somewhat reminiscent of marble, the pre-packaged eggs are indifferent brown. Obviously the egg shells have been removed before the second boiling session, where as in the original home-made process the shells are only lightly cracked without peeling, to allow the eggs to absorb flavours during the second boiling. The lightly cracked shells grant the white to colour surfaces of the egg.

The term: Xiang Lu Cha Dan, as in the packaging means “tasty tea egg”, while the word may also refer to Xiang food from the Hunan district. Hunan Xiang dishes belong to one of the eight types of Chinese food. Sharp dishes and conserved ham are the characteristic components.

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