Childhood is a funny time of life. Some of the things you covet and adore when you’re young can seem so silly and simplistic when you grow up, just like the few pieces of tasteless cherry in a can of fruit cocktail. We were a family with four kids, and there never seemed to be enough red-dyed, waxy cherry pieces to go around. Other things never seem to lose their charm, and among these, for me, are quail’s eggs. I remember eating quail’s eggs as a child and remembering thinking they were far superior to chicken eggs. They were tiny, cute, and uncommon, and their unevenly speckled shells seemed so fancy compared to the smooth white orbs that chickens provided us. On the occasion we had them, my mother would boil and peel them for us and we’d pop them into our mouths like candies, to be devoured as quickly as we had gotten our hands on them. Now when I get them, I like to take my time thinking up different things to do with them. Whether it’s bite-sized eggs benny or quail’s egg yolk, uni and avocado shooters, I try to do justice to the way I feel about quail’s eggs. In the case of marbled eggs, a little effort (it really is only a little!) goes a long way.
My mother used to make tea-infused eggs with regular eggs, and in my opinion so many of the great things we do with chicken’s eggs are only improved with quail’s eggs. I used a very smoky flavoured tea, lapsang souchong, for the infusion liquid, but my mom’s version uses plain black tea which would also work.
Marbled Quail’s Eggs
18 quail’s eggs (raw, not canned)
3 cups hot water
2 tbsp lapsang souchong tea leaves
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
4-5 allspice berries
2 whole star anise
2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 tbsp salt
In a small saucepan filled with cold water, add the eggs. Remove and discard any that float to the top. Bring water to a boil and allow to boil for two minutes. Strain the eggs into a colander, and run cold water over top so they’re cool enough to handle.
Tap all around the shell of each egg, so that the shell is cracked all over, and set aside without peeling.
In the same saucepan, combine hot water and lapsang souchong leaves, and bring to a boil. Add soy sauce, allspice, star anise, and eggs. Cover and boil for 12 minutes. Remove from heat, pour everything into a bowl, and chill overnight.
In a small, dry pan, toast Szechuan peppercorns on medium-low heat, shaking pan occasionally, until they darken in colour. Remove from heat and crush in a mortar and pestle with salt.
To serve: peel eggs and serve with szechuan pepper salt for dipping.
Have a great weekend, everyone!