Have you ever tried a seven course of snake before? Well, it was in 2002 when I tagged along with my two brothers on a trip back to Vietnam for the first time since our departure. While we were in my hometown Pleiku, my uncle took us to this one house that sold live snakes. We picked out a snake from the cage and the owner turned it into seven courses of snake for us. I remember that the snake meat was used in cooking the main dish but the skin was served as an appetizer. It was deep fried, crispy and seasoned with salt and pepper. It was flavorful and honestly delightful. As I recalled, all seven dishes were wonderful. The only part of the snake that I didn't try and would never dare to try was drinking a shot of whiskey with the raw beating snake heart. Folk lore has it that eating snake is associated with virility and vitality.
When I was a kid, I was game for all sort of exotic meats. As I got older and become less adventuresome, there are certain exotic game that I just can't take anymore including snake. But quail somehow continues to be one of my favorite wild small game to prepare and enjoy. My new favorite quail recipe is this earthy bold flavor grilled quail that is marinated in an aromatic mixture paste prepared from lemongrass, ginger, fresh red chili pepper, garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and olive oil. Grilling the quails brings out the sweetness of the marinade, giving the meat a moist texture and bold flavors.
As I am blogging, my mind is already thinking ahead to autumn when we're gathering around the warm fire pit on a cold, crisp day, roasting these quails on the sticks until they're golden brown. It's simply irresistible!
RECIPE: Grilled Lemongrass Ginger Quail
1- 1 1/2 packs (6-9) Quails, frozen quails available in the frozen meat section at most of the Asian markets
1 stalk Lemongrass, cut into 4-5 pieces
1 piece (8 oz) Ginger
1 whole Garlic
1-2 Red Chili Peppers
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Fish Sauce
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Combine lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, sugar, fish sauce, oil into a food processor or a blender and blend until a smooth paste is formed. Set aside.
Butterfly Quail: Wash and remove any leftover feathers on the quail. Split the quail open down the back and spread the two halves out flat. Place quails on a tray. Set aside.
Grill the quails just under 400 degrees F, covered until the temperature reaches up to 400 degrees, then lower the heat to maintain the temperature at about 400 degrees otherwise the quails will burn quickly. Lift the lid as needed to release the heat and maintaining grilling temperature.
Continue to cook until one side is golden then turn and grill the other side. Keep an eye on this side as it can flame and burn quickly. As soon as the skin turns golden brown, flip and return the quails to original side for a couple minutes and remove.
Preparing Grilled Salad
Sometimes, I like to serve it on a plate with grilled salad or just by itself as finger food, some bread and a family-size salad. Whenever we grill something, I like to toss some vegetables on the grill and make a dish out of it. As for this quail dish, I tossed some olive oil with the asparagus, mushrooms, and sweet corns then grilled them next to the quails.
Once the vegetables were cooked, I cut and mixed them up with a mixture of ponzu sauce.
The ingredients for the sauce are ponzu, finely cut cilantro, and chili oil with crunchy fried garlic (oil, fried garlic, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, sugar, onion powder, paprika).
You can also make your own ponzu sauce by whisking together 1/2 cup fresh lime or lemon juice, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine) and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
Eat well. Stay hungry!