PEEL ME A QUAIL EGG
At roughly the size of a large olive, the dainty, speckled quail egg is the smallest egg commercially available. Quail eggs are not graded by size because, unlike their larger counterparts, chicken eggs, they don’t differ substantially in size. Five quail eggs typically equal the weight of one chicken egg, a quail egg contains 14 calories, compared to 78 for a chicken egg, and they are higher in protein. Commercially grown quail and quail eggs were not available in the United States until the 1950s, and the market remains so small that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the national regulatory body, ignores quail egg production altogether.
Nevertheless, at a time when the popularity of chickens has prompted the lifting of zoning restrictions in major cities to allow back yard chicken coops, causing an outcry, and even lawsuits, from some neighbors, quails have much to recommend them. They are less expensive than chickens and take up less space; a square foot is plenty of room for a single quail. And a quail cage is quieter than a coop of squawking chickens. Quail are prolific layers; a healthy, well cared for quail could lay as many as 300 eggs in a year.
While urban farmers in America may have come to value quail eggs late, not so in other parts of the world. They are considered a delicacy in much of Asia and Europe, and are a common street food in parts of South America and Africa. In Japan, quail eggs may be found in bento lunches or be served raw with sushi. Skewered quail eggs are sold as satays in Indonesia, and bags of boiled quail eggs are sold in Vietnamese street stalls as beer snacks. Kwek-kwek is a Phillipine street food of soft boiled quail eggs dipped in an orange batter and deep fried. In Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, you may find a hard boiled quail egg attached with a toothpick to the top of your hamburger or hotdog.
Quail egg shells are very thin and easily cracked, so that caution is necessary when handling them raw or peeling them boiled. Opinions differ over whether the task of peeling a quail egg should begin at the pointy top or at the wider rounded base; I’m in the latter camp. There often is an air bubble inside the wider bottom that will enable you, after gently cracking it against a flat work surface, to pinch a small hole in the shell. Once inside the shell, you will discover that there is a thin membrane between the shell and the egg itself. If you can slide a thumbnail under the membrane and pull it off along with the shell, the peeling will go easier. Some adepts apparently are able to remove the entire egg shell in one spiral piece. I’m not among them.