My love affair with quail eggs goes back to my childhood. But, at the time, I knew only one way to enjoy them.
When my brother and I were children, eating at our favorite Chinese restaurant was a treat reserved for good behavior after visits to the pediatrician or dentist. The dishes we ordered rarely varied because we had favorites. Fried spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, fried rice… And bird’s nest soup with quail eggs.
For decades, it was bird’s nest soup with quail eggs. And it was as much about the lightly chewy bits of bird’s nest as it was about the quail eggs. My brother and I loved quail eggs, and the number of eggs in the soup tureen was always divided equally between us.
As you can imagine, my love affair with quail eggs has been marked with longevity and loyalty. I was already an adult when I ventured into other Chinese soups. But my love for quail eggs never wavered. It was something I would pass on to my daughters.
What exactly are quail eggs?
Obviously, they are eggs of the bird called quail. But “quail” does not refer to a singular species of bird. It is the collective name for several birds of different sizes although they are all categorized as mid-sized. There are Old world quails, New World quails, quails raised and sold as pets, and then there are farm-raised quails that are bred for their eggs.
How are quail eggs cooked?
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the various ways quail eggs are cooked and eaten around the world. This is just a list of how I have encountered quail eggs as food in the Philippines and in other countries in Asia.
Fried quail eggs
I was already a mother when kwek kwek, batter-coated deep-fried quail eggs became a popular street food in the Philippines.
My daughters ate a lot of kwek kwek when they were in college. I never really developed an affinity for it because, under the thick batter, I could hardly get the creaminess of the egg yolk. And, since kwek kwek is meant to be dipped in a spicy vinegar mix, I get even less of the egg flavor.
It isn’t just in the Philippines were quail eggs are sold as street food. On the waterfront parallel to Tamsui Old Street, there was stall that sold skewered fried quail eggs. I smiled a little to myself. What we Asians can do with the simplest ingredients is just amazing. And if we weren’t already full from everything we had already eaten at Tamsui, and the thought that there were more unique food that we still wanted to try, I would have ordered a stick of fried quail eggs.
In Chiang Mai, quail eggs omelette is street food. My initial reaction was… But they’re just mini omelettes!
So I resisted them… for a day. I first saw them at the Saturday Walking Street where I took a few photos.
The following day at the Sunday Walking Street, I saw them again. Larger, this time. The holes (for lack of a better term) of the pan were wider than the holes of a takoyaki pan although not as large as the holes of the Vietnamese banh khot pan.
I stood in front of the stall and gawked. I marveled at the dexterity of the hawker’s hands. And I felt amazed at how she was multi-tasking. She was cooking, she was prepping and she was serving customers too. How could she manage to time everything perfectly so that nothing burned? I stopped resisting and ordered.
I got a mixture of quail eggs fried sunny-side-up and quail eggs omelet. They were sprinkled with a powdered seasoning which, I supposed, was the hawker’s own concoction. Quite good, really.
Boiled quail eggs
Quail eggs can be boiled just like chicken and duck eggs. Of course, due to their size, the cooking time is much shorter. After boiling, the shelled eggs can be served or used in dishes in various ways.