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While quail eggs might be considered a novelty food, I recently discovered that they are more than just dainty eggs that look pleasing on a plate. Since moving to Europe and often seeing them in the markets I’ve taken a keen interest and done my bit of research on these  speckled beauties. It seems that these petite eggs boast quite a list of nutritional and health benefits, accelerating their appreciation world-wide. They’re somewhat new to me because I doubt I ever saw these in South Africa which made sense when I read that they are more common in North Africa. Other continents benefit from the presence of quail eggs too, but none so much as Asia. It seems that in parts of Asia, the demand for quail eggs are met just as widely on the street food market as they are in fine restaurants. Naturally, reading up about all of this, had to grant a more tangible meaning for me as it always does, and nowadays I find myself pleasantly lunching to my Asian inspired Quail Egg Salad.

This dish is weightless  yet satisfying, perfect for a light lunch/brunch or a starter. The oriental notes that come through from the dressing compliment the eggs in such a fine way that it’s easy to see why Asians appreciate eggs as greatly as they do in so many dishes. I guess it doesn’t matter whether the dish is a salad, a soup or stir fry, the common flavours used in Asian cuisine like ginger, limes, sesame, soy sauce, fish sauce and a bounty of other aromatic ingredients, seems to love eggs. Not just quail eggs but every kind of egg. It’s totally understandable to me now, why Asian soups are often served with a soft-boiled egg sliced in half. Genius!

For this dish I found an interesting way to give the eggs the same unique speckled effect after peeling by tossing them around in toasted black and white sesame seeds. Not only are the eggs visually striking on a plate, but they add an Oriental crunch that I was primarily aiming for. And if that wasn’t enough for texture, I threw in a handful of roasted peanuts for more of that Asian flair and constructed flavour.

Of course the salad greens were a mixed bag of Oriental leaves which can be found at local markets and green grocers. While the most convenient way is to buy a pre -mixed bag, if you cannot find it you might have to source them individually in gourmet shops or Farmers Markets. What you would need to look for are:

  •  Baby Beet Greens – immature beetroot greens. These are hard to miss as they possess deep red to purplish veins and bright green leaves.
  • Tatsoi – this particular green reigns from the Chinese cabbage family and the best way to distinguish them is to look for a leaf that resembles baby spinach.
  • Machè – Also known as Lamb’s lettuce, these are quite mild in flavour with small green leaves and white stems.
  • Mizuna – This is a Japanese green and in my opinion it has a pungent flavour similar to roquette and the shape of the leaf itself with its jagged edges also resembles roquette. I would say that the main difference between the two is size. The Japanese leaf is twice or more the size of a roquette leaf.
  • Red Lettuce – Unlike like Riddichio which looks more like a cabbage this particular red  green is made up of small individual leaves. As seen in the picture at the end of this post.

I think the key-note to remember when looking for Oriental salad greens is that none of the leaves require slicing because they’re simply not big enough like big lettuce or cabbage heads. If you can’t find every single one, mix what you can find with local salad produce and the same goes for eggs. You needn’t only use quail, use what you have because the dressing is always going to taste the same and reward the salad with those distinct Asian flavours.

Thank you for reading and have a great week!


*Note – for this recipe the Quail eggs are hard-boiled, at five minutes. For soft-boiled eggs, reduce cooking time by half.

Ingredients (Serves 4)
  • 100g mixed salad bag of Asian Greens
  • 1 dozen quail eggs
  • 30g peanuts
  • radish
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbs black sesame seeds
  • 1 tbs white sesame seeds
For the Dressing
  • 2 tbs grated palm sugar
  • thumb size piece of ginger
  • 1 large garlic pod
  • 2 limes
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbs light soy sauce
Preparation
  1. Grate sugar, ginger and garlic in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Zest the lime and squeeze out the juice to combine with above ingredients.
  3. Slit the chilli in half, remove ribs and seeds and chop finely. Combine.
  4. Finally whisk in honey, sesame oil, soy and fish sauce until all the ingredients are well combined. Dressing done! Let wait in the refrigerator.
  5. Fill half a litre of water into a medium pot and bring to the boil. Add eggs and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove pot from heat and run under cold water to cool eggs thoroughly.
  7. Peel and set aside.
  8. In a frying pan place peanuts on medium heat for 6-7 minutes.
  9. Remove the pan from heat and using the palm of your hand, squash the nuts gently to remove the skins. The skins will start to become dust.
  10. Take the pan to the sink and blow away the dust until you have only peanuts in the pan.
  11. Place pan back on the heat for a further 5 minutes to finish toasting.
  12. Remove nuts from the pan and set aside.
  13. In the same pan add sesame seeds. Let toast on low heat for 6 – 7 minutes.
  14. Transfer seeds onto a large plate and spread evenly, place pan back on the heat.
  15. Do not switch on the heat. Add a tsp of sesame oil plus a tsp of soy sauce and mix to combine. Add eggs and let them roll around in the pan to be covered well with this glaze.
  16. Place eggs onto the plate of seeds and roll around until throughly coated.
Assembly
  • Arrange leaves on a large platter.
  • Slice radish into thin rounds and scatter over the leaves.
  • Sprinkle over the peanuts.
  • Arrange quail eggs on top
  • When ready to serve, drizzle over the dressing.

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Maestros Need to Know

*Keep in mind that ginger and garlic especially when grated and eaten raw, can pack quite a punch where heat is concerned so taste the dressing first before adding the chilli.

*Before juicing the lime, zest it first making sure that you've chosen limes that are firm with fresh skin, anything limp will not yield aromatic, volatile oils needed from the zest. Once the lime has been zested, rub the lime between the palm of your hand and a hard worktop to loosen the segments inside the lime. Always do this before preparing to juice citrus. This method makes squeezing more efficient.

*If you are not skilled at slicing finely and accurately using a chef knife, use a small pairing knife to slice the radish by holding the raddish in one hand and slicing with the other. While this technique may be frowned upon, it does get the job done without unnecessary finger bleeds.

*When choosing ginger, check that the piece you choose is firm and the skin is taut on the flesh. Limp skin is a sure way to tell that the ginger is losing juices. To preserve the ginger it can be peeled and grated and placed in the refrigerator, sealed.

*Wait until the very last minute to add the dressing or else the leaves will wilt.
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