The whites are hard, the yolks creamy and these are the most beautiful patterned jewels. By cracking the shells and then cooking the eggs in the soy and tea mix, you get the most amazing crazy patterns. They are great on cold-cut platters or in little composite salads, served with Sichuan pickled cucumbers and pickled cabbage, some barbecued pork or white-cut chicken and chilli sauce.
Cover the eggs with water in a small pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain and plunge them into iced water. Tap the eggs gently with the back of a spoon to cover them all over with small cracks. Return the eggs to the pot and cover with fresh water. Add the tea, cassia bark, star anise, salt and soy sauce. Simmer gently for 1 hour, remove from the heat and leave in the mixture until cool. To serve, take the eggs out of the stock and remove the shells.
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