I've been planning a Japanese tapas menu for an upcoming dinner for friends and it led me to revisit an old favourite. Tetsuya Wakuda is my first culinary hero in Australia. I became an instant fan with my first mouthful of food at his first restaurant in Rozelle, so modest from the outside we couldn't even work out where the front door was. I swear it wasn't until after I tasted his cooking that I officially became a foodie. It was as if his Confit of Ocean of Trout made me start speaking in tongues. After another bite, I began to wax lyrical, telling people that it was as if I was tasting poetry in my mouth. It really was.
His cookbook Tetsuya is still a prized possession. My husband (then boyfriend) went to see Tetsuya at his restaurant asking for the book to be signed when chefs still weren't considered as the huge celebrities as they are now. I believe my partner's words that made it happen were, "you're like a rock god to Frances."
This recipe is simple to make and now that quail is more readily available it's something you're bound to make time and time again.
400 g butterflied quail, separating the legs from the breast section, creating 4 pieces per quail
1/2 t finely chopped garlic
sea salt and ground white pepper
2 pinches caster sugar
2-3 pinches five spice powder
1 drop sesame oil
1 drop light soy sauce
1/2 t mirin
200 ml grapeseed oil for frying
julienned ginger and shallots (scallions) for garnishing
Have all your ingredients ready by your wok.
Heat oil in wok over medium high heat. If you put in a wooden chopstick or spatula and the oil bubbles around it then the oil is ready. Add half of the quail and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until tender and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper. Remove any remaining garlic from the oil. Repeat process for remaining quail and garlic. Discard oil.
Return quail to the wok and dry toss with salt and pepper to taste. Add sugar, five-spice powder, sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin to taste. Toss well making sure all the flavours are well combined. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with ginger and shallots.