When my brother and I were children, eating out at our favorite Chinese restaurant was a treat reserved for good behavior after visits to the pediatrician or dentist. The dishes we ordered rarely varied because we had favorites. Fried spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, fried rice… And bird’s nest soup with quail eggs.
For decades, it was bird’s nest soup with quail eggs. And it was as much about the lightly chewy bits of bird’s nest as it was about the quail eggs. My brother and I loved quail eggs, and the number of eggs in the soup tureen was always divided equally between us.
As you can imagine, my love affair with quail eggs has been marked with longevity and loyalty. I was already an adult when I ventured into other Chinese soups. But my love for quail eggs never wavered. It was something I would pass on to my daughters.
Quail eggs as street food in the Philippines
I was already a mother when kwek kwek, batter-coated deep-fried quail eggs became a popular street food in the Philippines. Before that, hard-boiled quail eggs were mostly sold in plastic bags, by the dozen, by street peddlers who swarm over motorists at intersections when the traffic light turns red.
My daughters ate a lot of kwek kwek when they were in college. I never really developed an affinity for it because, under the thick batter, I could hardly get the creaminess of the egg yolk. And, since kwek kwek is meant to be dipped in a spicy vinegar mix, I get even less of the egg flavor.
Fried and skewered quail eggs in Taiwan
It isn’t just in the Philippines were quail eggs are sold as street food.
On the waterfront parallel to Tamsui Old Street, there was stall that sold skewered fried quail eggs. I smiled a little to myself. What we Asians can do with the simplest ingredients is just amazing. And if we weren’t already full from everything we had already eaten at Tamsui, and the thought that there were more unique food that we still wanted to try, I would have ordered a stick of fried quail eggs.
Quail eggs as street food in Chiang Mai
In Chiang Mai, quail eggs omelet is street food. My initial reaction was… They’re just mini omelettes. So I resisted them… for a day. I first saw them at the Saturday Walking Street where I took a few photos.
The following day at the Sunday Walking Street, I saw them again. Larger, this time.
The holes (for lack of a better term) of the pan were wider than the holes of a takoyaki pan although not as large as the holes of the Vietnamese banh khot pan. I stood in front of the stall and gawked. I marveled at the dexterity of the hawker’s hands. And I felt amazed at how she was multi-tasking. She was cooking, she was prepping and she was serving customers too. How could she manage to time everything perfectly so that nothing burned?
I stopped resisting and ordered.
I got a mixture of quail eggs fried sunny-side-up and quail eggs omelet. They were sprinkled with a powdered seasoning which, I supposed, was the hawker’s own concoction. Quite good, really.
A month later, at home, I decided to make Chiang Mai-style quail eggs omelet using a takoyaki pan. See the recipe.