Lacquered quail with hot and sour green papaya salad

Tom Kime's exquisite Thai dish is a mouth-watering combination of crispy spiced quail and tangy fresh salad
By Tom Kime
Lacquered quail with hot and sour green papaya salad
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes plus 10 minutes resting time
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Effort: medium


For the quail

  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 40 ml light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 oranges, zest and juice only
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise, pods
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 red chilli, seeds removed
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 free-range or organic quail

For the green papaya salad

  • 1 large unripe papaya, or 3 small unripe hard green mangoes, peeled
  • 3 tbsp raw, skinless peanuts
  • 2 small fresh chillies
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp small dried prawns, (optional)
  • 6 under-ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 3 cm square piece palm sugar, or soft brown sugar
  • 2 limes, juice only
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 20 fresh coriander leaves

Tips and Suggestions

This type of salad is great to accompany other dishes, such as pork or roast duck. To make it a meal on its own, you could add some fresh cooked prawns at the end, if you like.

A pestle and mortar is required to make the salad. You will see vendors pounding the ingredients for this taste sensation on pavements, markets and beaches from Hanoi to Singapore.


1. For the quail Crush the fennel and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle and transfer to a medium, heavy-based saucepan.

2. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, orange juice and zest, cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, honey, brown sugar and chilli, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3. Heat a heavy-based frying pan on a medium-high heat, add a little oil and gently brown the quails for about 2 minutes on each side to render the fat from beneath the skin and to caramelise the skin. If the pan is too hot, you will seal the skin trapping the fat inside. When browning the birds on their sides, allow the thighs to brown for an extra minute to get some heat into the meat.

4. Cut the quails in half and arrange, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting tray.

5. Pour the spicy caramel syrup over the sealed quails, then pour any excess caramel back into the saucepan and continue to reduce. Spoon over a second layer of reduced syrup, pouring the excess back into the saucepan again. Repeat this process 3-6 times, which should take about 40 minutes. If you run out of lacquer, put 200ml water and 1 tablespoon sugar into the pan and continue to reduce. The aim is to build up layers of the ever-thickening spicy caramel mixture.

6. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

7. Put the lacquered quail, skin side up, into a hot oven and roast quickly for about 10 minutes until they are medium-rare, so that the breast stays pink and moist and the outside is coated in the intense spicy caramel.

8. Remove from the oven and rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.

9. For the green papaya salad: preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

10. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the papaya or mango into thin strips, working all the way down to the stone. Stack the slices into piles of about 5 or 6 pieces. With a sharp knife, cut the stacks into thin matchsticks and put into a serving bowl.

11. Put the peanuts on an oven tray and roast for about 3-4 minutes until pale golden. Do not allow them to get too dark because they will be bitter. Remove from the oven and leave aside to cool.

12. Put the chillies, garlic and sugar in the mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt and pound until you have a smooth paste. Add the dried prawns, if using, and continue to pound.

13. Add the cherry tomatoes, shallots and palm sugar to the mixture and continue to pound for another minute. Keep turning the mixture over from the bottom so the paste gets completely mixed through.

14. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of the roasted peanuts, pounding until the peanuts are coarsely broken up.

15. Check the seasoning it should be hot from the chilli, sour from the lime juice, salty from the fish sauce and sweet from the sugar. Adjust if necessary, then pour the sauce over the shredded papaya or mango and mix well.

16. Coarsely chop the remaining roasted peanuts.

17. To serve, put two quail halves on each plate, then add some papaya salad, tear over the coriander leaves and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

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