1.5 litres/3 pints/6 cups water
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons maltose or honey
4 cups oil for deep frying
Bring water to the boil with the five-spice powder, salt and maltose. When the maltose has dissolved, immerse the quails in the liquid and let it return to the boil. Turn off heat, cover and leave for 10 minutes then lift out the quails, turning each bird so any liquid drains from the cavity. Place on a rack in front of an open window or electric fan and let the birds dry for about 3 hours. Check that there is no liquid inside the birds or the oil will spatter when they are fried.
Heat oil and fry quails until brown all over, ladling oil over them and turning so they cook evenly. Drain and serve with spiced salt for each person to sprinkle over their portion. This is a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder and 1 tablespoon salt.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)