Chinese Salt Baked Quail Egg 鹽焗鵪鶉蛋
By Ellen L. Published: 2017-04-13
Cheep, cheep! Presenting our interpretation of a 'natural' Easter: this year we bring together the idea of Easter eggs and the idea of street food culture in Hong Kong. Our Easter nest is full of tiny naturally speckled eggs! Namely the delicate Chinese Salt Baked Quail Eggs, or 鹽焗鵪鶉蛋, usually found at your local street hawker, these roasty, just salty wee eggs come still piping hot in a paper bag. There's nothing quite like it to have in your pocket on a windy day to warm your fingers with!
Here's a street hawker we happened on during the Chinese New Year. Can you see the salt baked quail eggs in the right corner? And all the other goodies, roasted peanuts, gingko nuts, chestnuts, and charcoal baked yams! YUM! Too bad the street hawkers only dare to come out during these kinds of public holidays nowadays, any other time they get chased off and fined. (Thanks HK Govt for killing off the street food culture of HK.) But no worries, if you can't get your fix off the streets you can still enjoy your Salt Baked Quail Eggs as they are quite easy to make at home!
Quail eggs 鵪鶉蛋 are about the size of an olive and they taste pretty much similar to chicken eggs, just more delicate in a way cuz it's a much, much smaller bite. They look so pretty with the speckles, so wild and eggish, and my little girl loved the idea of a real bird's egg in the nest. We get our quail eggs from our grumpy ol' egg vendor at the wet market, but they sell them in most asian supermarkets at the egg section.
You need a good bit of coarse salt 粗鹽, enough to completely surround your eggs, top and bottom. Coarse salt, not fine salt, is used to minimize salt absorption. The idea of a salt bake is to create an oven of hot salt around the food, insulating the eggs from direct heat and allowing for an even gentle bake.
To your coarse salt you can add whatever spices you would like to infuse your eggs with. We added star anise 八角, cinnamon sticks 肉桂棒 and Sichuan pepper 四川胡椒, also known as 花椒. The salt is then heated in order to infuse the spice flavors into the salt.
The quail eggs are then nestled gently into the salt. Be sure to keep a good inch between the eggs and the bottom of the wok.
The eggs are then blanketed with another inch of salt. The eggs should be completely covered on all sides. Your salt oven is done! As the salt cooks it will stiffen into place. A few minutes at a very low heat (to avoid your eggs exploding) and your 'natural eggs' are ready to nest up for Easter!
Happy Easter from all of us at The Hong Kong Cookery! Cheep!
Chinese Salt Baked Quail Egg Recipe 鹽焗鵪鶉蛋
Prep time: Cook time:
24 quail eggs
4 cups coarse salt, 1152g
8 star anise
5 cinnamon sticks
handful sichuan pepper
Wash and dry eggs. Pour all your salt into your wok*. Add in all spices and heat over low heat, stir frying gently for two minutes. Remove half the salt, then add eggs in one by one, gently nestling in salt still in the wok. Make sure you have at least 1" of salt between eggs and the bottom of the wok. Pour reserved salt over the eggs and pat firmly all around, making sure all eggs are completely covered.
*A wok is preferable as the wok has a curve you can nestle eggs into . If you only have flat bottomed pans you will need to use more salt to build your salt oven.
Let cook for 8 mins over your lowest heat, then turn off fire and let sit covered for 3 mins. Break the salt by tapping on it lightly (it will stiffen a bit as it cooks) and remove the eggs. Nest up and enjoy!
Tip: Save your now flavor infused salt for reuse by letting it cool and store in a ziplock bag.
Tip: We made our natural birds nest with the straw used to make zongzi. Just soak the straw until flexible and then weave the straw in a nest shape.
More Eggy Delights at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Chinese Egg Tarts 蛋撻
Chinese Tea Eggs - The Egg as Art 茶葉蛋