Where There’s Smoke and a Controlled Fire

Here’s a warming and fragrant dish for cold and dark times. Versatile and aromatic, tea-smoking (not to be confused with smoking tea) in a wok or other sturdy, wide vessel with a rack that will fit into it is an easy way to cook proteins and even vegetables of all kinds. Pick a black tea that you like (you can amp up the smokiness of the resulting dish by starting with a smoked black tea such as Lapsang Souchong). Just make sure you allow at least an hour to marinate the chicken breasts in the sweetened soy liquid before you are ready to tea smoke them.

No need for an excuse, but I like to brew up some of the tea that I am using in the smoking process to center me and keep me hydrated at a time when our home heating is working overtime (at least in our part of the country) and we may feel somewhat dehydrated.

Yield: 8 servings for use as a sandwich or wrap filling, 4 servings if using as a main dish

Photo of a well-used wok sitting on a stove

The Marinade

  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  1. Combine the soy sauce with the sugar, making sure to dissolve all the sugar.
  2. Marinate chicken in this mixture for an hour or longer in the refrigerator.
  3. Next gather the ingredients shown below for smoking the chicken.

Smoking Mixture

  • ½ cup dry uncooked rice
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup black tea leaves 
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, cracked 
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 4 slices fresh ginger root
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 apple, sliced into eighths
  • 1 orange, sliced into eighths

Equipment Needed

Wok or other wide, sturdy pan with a tight-fitting lid and a rack which fits inside it for the foods being smoked.

Tea-Smoked Chicken Instructions

  1. Line the wok with foil, then place the smoking mixture in a mound in the center of the foil, starting with rice, sugar, tea, and spices. Arrange the sliced apple and orange as you wish on top of the base ingredients.
  2. Place the cover on the wok and heat the wok over a high flame until wisps of smoke appear. Reduce the flame to medium. Carefully set the rack into the wok.
  3. Using tongs, quickly place the chicken onto the rack in the wok and cover tightly. Smoke for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is done. It should feel springy to the touch and register 165˚ F. on an instant-read thermometer.


  • If serving cool or at room temperature, cool chicken and slice. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Create wrap sandwiches by layering arugula, sliced tomatoes and mayo, into a thin tortilla or lavash bread, if desired. You can even squirt a bit of Sriracha over the chicken in the wrap. 
  • If you are serving the tea-smoked chicken while it’s hot, slice it in strips and place over a bed of sticky rice or Asian noodles. Scatter some thinly sliced scallions or chives over the dish at the last minute. A cucumber salad with sesame oil, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame seeds would be a nice accompaniment here.

Photo “Neatloaf – Wok” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “Phil! Gold” and is being posted unaltered (source)