Red Eggs 红鸡蛋 and Easter Eggs

Chinese - 001 Red Eggs edited re-sized

Eggs hold a special symbolic significance in many cultures. It is believed to pre-date the current Christian practice of Easter eggs which represent our re-birth with Christ’s resurrection.  Chinese believe eggs symbolize re-birth, new life and fertility.

I have been culturally conditioned to associate Red colour with celebrations and good news. After a month long period of cooking confinement food (from the mother’s or mother in-law’s perspective) and a month long period of being “confined” to strict age old practices of dos and don’t s (from the new mom’s perspective), the baby’s Full Month celebration is indeed a celebration of more than a new generation to the family tree!

Here are some FUN FACTs :-

(a) from Red eggs mean birth of a baby. The customs differ in different parts of China. In central China, when a new baby is born, red eggs will be sent to the grandma on the mother’s side. From the red eggs, grandma will know the new born baby’s gender. If the eggs have a black dot at one end, it means the baby is a boy, the red eggs must be in even number, 6 or 8 eggs, wishing the baby boy will get a wife when he grow up. If the red eggs don’t have black dots, the eggs are in odd number, 5 or 7 of them, it means the new baby is a girl, odd number wishes the baby girl will get married in the future.

(b) from Huffington Post. Painting Easter eggs is an especially beloved tradition in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches where the eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. Easter eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Paschal vigil and distributed to the congregants. The hard shell of the egg represents the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represents Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

The helpers in my father’s home made them, decades ago. My own experience of dying hard boiled eggs came about towards the end of my daughter’s confinement. I was impressed by how easy it is to dye them and by the intensity of colour. A fun kids’ project. Powder dyes work best.

Some comments about Ingredients

Chinese - 002 Red Eggs edited re-sized

  • Hard boiled Eggs. Use brown eggs rather than white eggs as they make it easier to develope the rich red colour.  You can hard boil eggs ahead of time but they should be refrigerated and allowed to come to room temperature when you’re ready to dye them.
  • Red food colour. Best to use a bright red powdered colour. You might prefer to  use several other colours for your children’s parties. Buy stickers or make your own….why not make them look like Mr Potato Head?
  • Vinegar. Rice vinegar or any distilled vinegar. This acts as a fixing agent for the colour.

Are you bothered when you bite into a hard boiled egg with a greenish tinge around the yolk? I have always thought that the green tinge is the result of hard boiled eggs that were not freshly cooked that day. This is not so!

How to hard boil eggs without green tinge around the yolk.

1. In a saucepan or pot which is large enough to hold the number of eggs in single layer, place your eggs. Cover eggs with about an 1 inch of water.

2. Place filled saucepan or pot over high heat, cook till water is at a gentle rolling boil.

3. Switch off the heat and cover saucepan or pot. Let eggs stand in hot water about 15 minutes for large eggs (12 minutes for medium eggs; 18 minutes for extra large). Set your timer.

4. Once the correct time is reached, drain eggs and let them dry. Best to colour them whilst still warm,  as shown below.

These steps ensures tender, not rubbery, eggs and minimizes cracking. They are banish the greenish ring around the yolk. The ring is harmless but unsightly and it results from a reaction between sulphur in the egg white and iron in the yolk. It occurs when eggs have been cooked for too long or at too high a temperature.

USEFUL HINT too: a pretty good estimate of timing for different styles of large eggs.

• For runny soft-boiled eggs (barely set whites): 3 minutes

• For slightly runny soft-boiled eggs: 4 minutes

• For custardy yet firm soft-boiled eggs: 6 minutes

• For firm yet still creamy hard-boiled eggs: 10 minutes

• For very firm hard-boiled eggs: 15 minutes

The dying process

Chinese - 003 Red Eggs edited re-sized

Items needed

  • Paper egg cartons for the dyed eggs to sit whilst drying. Large enough to hold the number of eggs you intend to dye.
  • To make clean up easier, spread a few sheets of newspapers and line the top with several disposable paper towels to catch spills or drips of red dye.

2 stainless steel bowls which are deep enough to prevent spills and large enough to hold the an egg and some dye.

Chinese - 004 Red Eggs edited re-sized



30 to 50 Eggs, hard boiled

Red dye liquid ( if you desire the same intensity of red colour as shown)

  • 2 Tablespoons Red Dye Powder/ Food Colouring
  • 3/4 Cup hot water
  • 1 Tbsp Rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar


  1. Make the Red Dye Liquid. Mix red dye powder with hot water and vinegar.
  2. Fill each stainless steel bowl with half of the Red dye each. Put a warm hard boiled  egg into each stainless steel bowl, roll the eggs around so that they are evenly coloured all over. Gently lift them out with a slotted spoon or a pair of tongs (requires steady hands) onto the egg carton to cool and dry.
  3.  Inspect the eggs for evenness and depth of colour. If you find the eggs are not red enough, re-dip them in the red dye once more and dry them.

If these eggs are for Easter or birthday parties, stick on other decorations to suit the occasion. BE CREATIVE and HAVE FUN ! 

I recently had a blast with my grand-daugther who is 30 months old, dying these Easter eggs. I hard boiled the eggs, prepared all the dyes in her presence and shredded colour construction paper. She filled the cups and learnt to take instructions, patience and a whole bunch of other things.

I used less dye powder and left the eggs inside the liquid dye for a longer time. We also made a natural dye from onion skins. She commented that those eggs has an onion smell!

 Easter Eggs edited re-sized


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