Tea Smoked Sea Salt & Deviled Tea Eggs

A sides, Snack, Spice, Tea post written by on September 24, 2013


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I have a salt problem – or rather, I have a lack of salt problem that follows my cooking. It is a weakness in my kitchen where in others it is the strength. Too little salt. Too much salt. Just the right amount of salt. I am always seeking, always feeling a tad bit scared of Salt, always seems deficient in Salt so I keep small bits of Salt at the table and tell others that I prefer to ‘let them Salt to taste’ when in fact, it’s because I am terrible at deciphering.

How did this happen?

It’s not like I don’t find salty foods amazing – I love soy sauce and even fish sauce. I grew up eating salt and pepper on boiled quail eggs on the streets of Vietnam from food peddlers. As a small child, I drank salted lime sodas to cool myself in the boiling summer heat.

When I moved to the states, I lived, ate, and cooked in a household with heart problems that necessitated the removal of most salt from food. This heart-healthy diet left me feeling apprehensive of eating too much salt. My tongue grew scared that Salt will shrivel up my heart and make a heartless patient out of me. My body winced at the taste of over-salted food, but that usually meant just the right amount for normal palettes. When I’ve tried to overcompensate, I over-salted everything and made things inedible. I’ve regularly needed and used salt-tasters when I am cooking. It’s terrible methodology – what kind of cook leaves the salting to another person??

Then, came flavored salt. Salt with something else. This excites me. First came vanilla infused salt and now a smoky tea salt. Just in time for Autumn, when fireplaces get humming with their familiar fumes again – something I’ve missed since moving to the cities.

If you’ve been here before, you know I love the taste of smoke in my food – smoked mashed potatoes, smoky cheeses, smoked anything practically. That’s why  I was immediately  drawn to the tea-smoked salt recipe when I picked up the Culinary Tea book. It’s a simple method that lets you capture the delicate flavor of tea and applewood into salt crystals – all without  starting a grill or lighting a fire or burning anything down. If you have an wok or an old pot, you can do it within thirty minutes. Just don’t tell anyone how simple it is.

Unfortunately I gave most of my first batch away so I’m on my way to smoking some more this week for personal experiments. I think it will be perfect for a cocktail with scotch or mezcal – or a fallsy bloody mary of sorts. Or – keep it around just to open up the jar and smell the embers of applewood fire.


Dust of the sea, in you

the tongue receives a kiss

from ocean night:

taste imparts to every seasoned

dish your ocean essence;

the smallest,


wave from the saltcellar

reveals to us

more than domestic whiteness;

in it, we taste finitude.

{from Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Salt}

To make tea smoked salt: Adapted from Culinary Tea and Gastrodamos

Gas Range


Aluminum Foil

1/4 cup of black tea like Keemun, Darjeeling, or Lychee (you can use a smoky tea such as Russian Caravan, but that smokiness will overpower a delicate wood like cherry or apple)

2 TB fine cherrywood or applewood chips

1/4 c rice (uncooked)

2 c salt for smoking (I used coarse pink sea salt, which turned brownish pink)

+ Line a wok or old pot with heavy duty aluminum foil. I had very lightweight foil so I doubled it. Mix together the rice, tea, and wood chips and place on the foil. Put a metal rack or old steaming rack on top. I used a broken one that washed up perfectly clean in the dishwasher. I think you can use any metal rack that will fit inside the wok.

+ Make an aluminum tray with your foil – be sure to double it up to make it sturdy for handling. Make a lip by folding up your edges on all four sides.  You will have a tiny pan of sorts. Place this aluminum tray onto your metal steaming rack and put the salt in it. Be sure to keep it under 1/4″ so the smoke can penetrate all of the salt crystals.

+ Cover the entire pot with foil – seal the edges by folding the foil liner with the foil top. The more sealed your casing, the less smoke will escape. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just enough to keep smoke from billowing out. I find the smell to be pleasant, but inform your household or turn off the smoke detector.

+ Open the windows or turn on your exhaust fan. Turn the gas on high until smoke starts to appear (it will leak through the edges). Once you can see smoke, turn the heat to low and continue smoking for at least another 15 minutes. The rice/wood mix will only last for 15 minutes so be sure to replace it if you plan to smoke your salt for a longer time. I all depends on the strength of tea, the size of the salt crystals, and the type of wood you have. Taste it and see if you would like it stronger.

+ I smoked my salt for about 25 minutes because the crystals were very large. By the time I was done, the rice, tea, and wood was very charred and the wok smelled wonderfully smoky. I wished I made fried rice with it then and there.

+ Store in airtight containers – it will last for months. Every time I open my container, it smells like campfire. I think the smell is beautiful – but I can hardly taste the “tea” – I think the point is to make it light and delicate.  I have a 5 lb bag of applewood chips so I’m going to keep making more since all of my salt is gone.

+ Feel free to experiment by adding spices to your mixture.

I’ve mentioned before how I love boiled quail eggs and salt – well, my tea musings would be incomplete without mentioning the more refined tea eggs and smoked salt alternative. They’re practically an institution when it comes to Asian egg snacks. What makes them especially special is the addition of smoked salt. Gold & Stern mentions using smoky salt to top tea eggs, but they also mention something truly brilliant and original: Deviled Tea Eggs.

Deviled Tea Eggs: spiced with cinnamon, tea, and star anise, it’s easily the best deviled egg I’ve ever made. In addition to being beautifully marbled, they were extra savory due to the tea and soy marinade – deviling adds just makes it over the top craziness that will impress most deviled egg aficionado. We thought it was pretty fun to eat and look at. Try it out and let me know what you think!

For one Dozen Tea Eggs: Adapted from Culinary Tea & the Internet (just Google tea eggs)

12 eggs

3/4 c tamari (soy sauce if you don’t have tamari)

2 TB

4 cups water

3 TB Lapsang Souchong tea

4 star anise

1 cinnamon stick


+ Place eggs in a pot with enough cold water to submerge the eggs. Bring water to a boil and then turn off heat. Allow eggs to sit for 10 minutes in hot water.

+ Discard used water and use the back of a butter knife to add cracks to the eggs. Do not be shy. They will need a lot of cracks. After watching some videos on You Tube I thought I was abusing my eggs – but they coudl take it. Further, I think I could have made even better, harder cracks.

+ Using the same pot, bring water, soy, sugar, tea, and spices to a boil. Drop eggs into the hot marinade and add just enough water to cover the eggs. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. The eggs should sit in the marinade for an additional 2 hours (at minimum). I just do it overnight.  It’s best to eat tea eggs the day after. You should not let it sit for a week.

+ You can serve the eggs with smoked salt or as deviled eggs (below)

Egg Yolk


+ To devil your tea eggs, remove your yolk and add at least 1/4 cup of mayo and 1/4 ts of spicy mustard. Use the marinade liquid from the tea eggs to flavor your yolk mixture and to get it to a soft consistency. To get a creamy yolk mixture, push your filling through a fine mesh strainer a few times. (photo above)

+ Top with plenty of chopped chives (while I thought the long chive piece looked pretty, I think chopped chives are better distributed in your mouth and therefore, superior). Add some sweet pickled carrots to make it colorful. carrots are optional, but chives are a must!

+ Tea eggs tend to have overcooked and dry yolks so I think the mayo and deviling actually makes them more palatable. You can also boil extra eggs to get more yolks if you like your’s overfilled ( I do!).


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7 Responses to “Tea Smoked Sea Salt & Deviled Tea Eggs”

  1. Shelly says:

    I love this! Your tea eggs are GORGEOUS! I can never get mine to look as beautifully marbled as those! Also, I love love love the idea of a smoky flavored salt. I do love the smokey taste (Smoked Gouda, you are my favorite) but usually use liquid smoke to replicate the flavor. Can’t wait to try this!

    I’ve also had the same problem with reluctance with salt. Everyone has such different levels of tolerance with salt that I find myself using only small amounts when cooking but then pestering people to add more afterwards (‘Oh I brought the salt out – feel free to add it yourself’ ‘does this need more salt? I think so – here here’ haha). Ah well.

    • phi says:

      The best days to make tea eggs seems to be when I’m feeling particularly aggressive… you have to beat them a lot more than you think.

      So I went to this amazing SF restaurant (AQ) in my neighborhood and was served the saltiest thing ever, but I foolishly kept eating it bc it was full of mushrooms and barley goodness. It was so bad we literally drank a pitcher of water with the meal… Once I over salted my hummus and had to make another batch just to remedy the saltiness. :/

  2. What a unique twist on tea eggs! I love it, and what a stunning presentation. So glad I found your blog through Jennifer’s FB post. I’m the opposite of you — I’m always oversalting everything because I LOVE salt. I could use a bit of caution here and there. Thanks for this beautiful post and I’m so excited to keep following!

  3. Fan-fucking-tastic! I ate so many of them I felt sick. Still don’t regret it!

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