My introduction to quail eggs was via the Chinese bird’s nest soup. I was a pre-schooler (I probably had bird’s nest soup with quail eggs much earlier than that and I just don’t remember), my family dined regularly at the San Jacinto and Lido restaurants in Chinatown and because my brother and I were always given the privilege of choosing what soup we wanted to order (Asian style dining means one huge bowl of soup for everyone), we almost always chose the bird’s nest soup with quail eggs. Of course, at the time, my brother and I had no idea that bird’s nest actually meant bird’s saliva. Had we known, I don’t know if we would have touched the stuff. I was already a teenager when I found out and, by that time, I was a pretty adventurous foodie and exotic ingredients like bird’s saliva no longer daunted me.
But why the obsession with bird’s nest soup with quail eggs? As children, it was the quail eggs that interested us more than the broth and everything else in it. In fact, we were so fixated on the quail eggs that the eggs were always divided equally between my brother and me. Equally. They were just so cute and because, back then, fresh quail eggs were not as widely available as they are today, they were a special treat.
Even today, with the abundance of fresh quail eggs in the market, I still think of them as treats. And, even now, I don’t think I’d appreciate bird’s nest soup without the quail eggs. It just isn’t the same.
When I became a mommy, I introduced my daughters to quail eggs. And their fascination with them as children were just the same as my brother’s and mine. There’s something so darn irresistible about those tiny little white things with the creamy yellow yolk inside. Not that they taste much different from the more common chicken eggs but the experience of popping a whole egg into the mouth, rather than biting into it, is just incomparable.
Quail eggs have found its way into many of the dishes I have cooked at home. Because they can be bought at just about any market or grocery, at very inexpensive prices, my daughters don’t have to quibble about how many each should get. Mostly, quail eggs come in boxes of 24 and that’s more than enough for both of them, and for Speedy and myself too.
To hard boil quail eggs, place the raw eggs in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat. Cover and allow to steep for two and a half minutes. If you cook them for too long, a grey sulfuric-tasting layer forms between the yolk and the white (true with all eggs so it isn’t good to over boil them). Drain the eggs and douse with cold water. Shell them while still warm — if allowed to cool, the membrane attached to the shell will stick to the egg white.
Below, some of the recipes in the archive that include quail eggs among the ingredients.