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Air Fryer: Crispy 5-Spice Quail

I love experimenting with ingredients that I have never used before. Twice a month I like to go to my local ethnic grocery store and pick something new out - it could be anything - that catches my attention and inspires a little bit of excitement. This week it was quail.

Quail is a small bird that is quite gamey - it is quick to cook and has lots of small bones - so it is easier to cook whole (or halved). The flavouring was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend - we were chatting about childhood dim sum memories. With so much closed during the pandemic, it’s been a while since I have been able to go out for proper dim sum (and will probably be a while yet - can’t wait for cart service) and so I have been playing around in the kitchen with some flavours that remind me of my favourite brunch treats and landed on this crispy 5-spice quail.

I recommend marinating for at least 3 hours - if not overnight.

Serves 4 Active Prep: 10 min Marinade: 3+ hours Cook: 10-15 min


4 quails, halved

½ tsp 5-Spice

1 tbsp honey (rice wine)

¼ cup shaoxing wine (rice cooking wine)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1 tbsp white soybean paste

1 tbsp oyster sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

1 cup water

1 tsp white sesame seeds


Step 1: In a bowl, combine water, soy sauce, oyster sauce, soybean paste, garlic, shaoxing wine, honey, ginger, and 5 spice and whisk together until it is thoroughly mixed.

Step 2: Cut quails in half (so that each piece has one breast, one wing, one thigh and one leg) and submerge in marinade. Store in the fridge for 3 hours minimum (overnight is best).


Step 1: Remove quail from marinade and sprinkle with sesame seeds. If you put them on now, they will stick to the quail as it cooks. If you add the sesame seeds at the end, they will just fall off.

Step 2: Place quail in the air fryer basket and ensure that the skin side is up. In the bottom of the air fryer, pour the marinade in. It will cook at the same time as a quail, burn off the alcohol that is in the shaoxing wine, and will become a tasty dipping sauce that will be ready at the same time that the quail is.

Step 3: Set the air fryer to 390 degrees F and cook for 10-12 minutes - you are looking for the skin to crisp up and for the colour to deepen/darken. If the basket is overloaded, do the quail in 2 batches. Consistent air flow is important and helps the skin to better crisp up. Serve while hot.

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