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Chinese Tea Eggs, And Other Food From Your Childhood

13 years ago

I visited my father and came away with a bag of Chinese tea eggs. Yum. I haven't had these since I was a child.

If you're not familiar with these, they are eggs, hardboiled, then gently cracked all over but not peeled, then marinated for a few days in a mixture of tea, spices, soy sauce, and I'm not sure what else. You eat them cold, the egg white is covered with a pattern of dark brown crack lines and tastes savory and salty.

Tea eggs are not the same as Thousand Year Eggs, which are uncooked but preserved by aging for months in God knows what - traditionally tea, ashes, lime and salt, but I think more industrialized processes are used now. I like those too, but no-one I know made them at home. You buy them in Chinatown. The boxes always proclaim ''no lead'' which makes me worry, that this is even a possibility.

I'm going to make some tea eggs this weekend. All part of rediscovering the tastes and scents of my childhood.

Let's see. There was congee aka rice soup, which we called ''shi fan'' and topped with mounds of shredded, dried fish or pork. Also these long deep fried pastries, sort of like churros, but salty instead of sweet, they are ''you tiao'' and are served in some Chinese restaurants. Pancakes made with scallions and garlic and lots of oil. All that, and the eggs, was a typical breakfast. Plus bowls of yucky warm soybean milk. I remember how I never did like that stuff. Even as a little kid, I came down on the dairy side of the fence.

Are there foods that you grew up with, whose taste and scent and texture take you right back to when you were a little child? Is my tea egg your mom's Belgian waffle or hot chocolate or, gosh I wish, grand-mere's cassoulet? Do you still eat them today? Have you introduced your children to those foods?

I think these foods are an important part of our family heritage. They deserve to be passed on. I'm going to have my kids eating congee and dried fish for breakfast if, well, if I have to hold them down and force $20 bills into their hands.

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