Ayam Percik is one of my absolute favourite dish. Traditionally, it is made with chicken rubbed and marinated in the flavoursome spice paste and then grilled over hot burning coals to a beautiful charred perfection. As a child, these was a real treat for me and my cousins. We adored it and whenever this yummy bird dish presented itself onto our dining table, it was always greeted with excitable gasps and lot and lots of tiny greedy hands rapidly reaching for a piece of the chicken. Although admittedly, most of those tiny hands were actually mine keep coming back for more.
For a modern twist on this classic dish, I have used the adorable quails and subjected them to the Peranakan treatment. Somehow, I think game and Nyonya spices makes for a particular wonderful pairing. With their gutsy and strong tasting flesh, game meat stood up well against the similar intense and rich flavours of the Nyonya rempah. While most people are more familiar with their miniature eggs, these tiny birds are actually rather delicious too.
As quails are notoriously tiny - they are no bigger than my clenched fist - I had to be generous and serve two birds per person for a more substantial meal, along with some stir-fried pumpkin and runner beans and Nasi Kunyit. If the weather is good, I would cook this in an outdoor barbecue but as the weather has been rather dreadful these days, a good reliable oven grill will do the tricks.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
4 whole quails
3 tbsp sunflower oil
200ml coconut milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the rempah/spice paste:
2.5cm inch fresh galangal, skinned and chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, sliced into rings
10 shallots or 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 head garlic, skinned and crushed
4-6 red chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
2 buah keras/candlenuts
Pound all the ingredients for the rempah into a paste using a mortar and pestle or alternatively, blitz in a food processor.
Pat the quails dry with kitchen paper. Rub the rempah/ spice paste and oil all over the quail and drizzle over the coconut milk and let it marinate for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge.
Pre-heat the grill. Season the quail with salt and pepper and grill them for 5-6 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.