"Another dish I enjoy at Ikan Bakar Pak Lang in Kampung Baru is roasted quails with curry leaves. The quails look (and smell) so appetising, nestled in a fluffy bed of fried onion, chillies and curry leaves. This dish is part of the restaurant's mind-boggling, help-yourself, nasi kandar selection, where you start with a big mound of steamed rice on your plate and then select curries, salads and other tantalising dishes arranged on trays to go with it." ~ Luke Nguyen.
6 x 100 g (3 1/2 oz) quails, cleaned
500 ml (18 fl oz/2 cups) vegetable oil
50 fresh curry leaves
4 long red chillies
1 large onion, sliced
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve
3 tsp five-spice powder
2 tsp sea salt
4 tsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cm (3/4 in) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 Tbs light soy sauce
100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) vegetable oil
Put all the marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until well combined. Add the quails, coating them well with the marinade. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Transfer the quails and marinade to a baking dish and roast for 15–20 minutes until the quails are lightly golden and cooked through.
Meanwhile, pour the oil into a wok and bring to 170°C (325°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 20 seconds. Flash-fry the curry leaves in small batches for a few seconds, just until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels.
Now fry the whole chillies in the hot oil for 3 minutes, or until softened. Remove and drain. Reduce the heat to 150°C (300°F), then stir the sliced onion in the oil for 4 minutes until softened and slightly caramelised. Remove and drain.
Arrange half the crisp curry leaves and half the fried onion on a serving platter in an even layer. Top with the whole roast quails and garnish with the remaining curry leaves, onion and fried whole chillies. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Credits: This is an edited extract from Street Food Asia by Luke Nguyen published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $60 and is available in stores nationally.
Photo Credits: © Alan Benson.