These tasty little morsels of crispy fried quail get a hit of fragrant Chinese spice and Sichuan peppercorn for a can’t-stop-at-one treat.
Have you ever ordered a ‘salt and pepper’ style dish at a Chinese restaurant? It’s usually available with a variety of different proteins, but amongst the most popular are salt & pepper squid and salt & pepper tofu (which if you have to eat tofu, is one of the most delicious ways to do so). Unlike thick fried chicken batter that is all about the crunchy nooks and crannies clinging to the meat, salt & pepper style is a wafer thin but fantastically crisp coating.
Unlike an ordinary poultry batter, the hallmark ingredient of salt and pepper style is five spice powder, a concoction which includes star anise, clove and cinnamon. This S&P style is a perfect pairing with quail and smaller game birds like dove. The exotic spices are bold yet delicate enough to complement the light gaminess of the birds. I like to add a bonus ingredient of ground Sichuan peppercorns, which leave a pleasantly numbing tingle on the lips.
For those not lucky enough to bag their own quail, here’s some info on purchasing. Generally, quail are sold by the piece, rather than by weight. So for this particular recipe, I used 8 boneless quail breasts that I then cut in half again. This recipe would be phenomenal with semi boneless meat too – the little wing makes for excellent nibbling.
The real key to successful frying to is make sure your oil is hot enough, at least 300 degrees. It makes all the difference between golden/crispy and oily/soggy. I use and recommend a Thermapen thermometer (which not only lets you temp your oil, but is also invaluable for meat cookery, too.
Salt & Pepper Crispy Fried Quail
8 boneless quail breasts
2 tablespoons Sichuan pepper dry rub mix
3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup AP flour
2–3 cups peanut or vegetable oil for frying
Optional garnish: sliced jalapenos, fresh lime wedges & fresh cilantro
- Clean the quail breasts of any sinew or remaining cartilage, then split into two lobes (half the breast into two pieces). If sourced from the wild, ensure there is no shot in the breast pieces.
- Combine the Sichuan mix with the rice and AP flour in a bowl.
- In a shallow pan, preferably a cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium/high heat.
- Once the oil is over 300f. Drop a quail breast into the flour mixture and press to coat the entire surface, then gently place into oil. Repeat with additional breasts until pan is full but not overcrowded. You may need to fry in batches depending on the size of your pan.
- Cook the breasts for 2-3 minutes on one side, until golden brown, then turn over and cook on the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes. If the quail is not turning golden, increase the heat and allow them to cook an additional minute or so, turning as necessary.
- Remove quail onto paper towel to drain any excess oil, then serve immediately.