When it comes to eggs—the breakfast staple more universally beloved than any other—chickens seems like the obvious choice for the job. Chicken eggs are large without being overwhelming, packed with protein and easy to find at your average grocery store. But sometimes they aren’t quite right for the task at hand. To start, you cannot plunk a whole chicken egg into your mouth at the breakfast table without looking psychotic. This leaves the average runny yolk egg eater with a surprisingly stressful task. It’s near impossible to enjoy a poached or sunny side up egg without engaging in a messy chase where some yolk inevitably ends up a forgotten casualty on your plate. For the yolk lovers among us, the ratio of white to golden yolk can often feel unfair. There is just a little too much of the gelatinous white stuff surrounding the rich golden temple that we all came to see. And we are required to eat through this flavorless white mass as though embarking on a pilgrimage to mecca every single time the mood for an egg strikes. It’s exhausting.
Despite these obvious problems, there is an innate unease involved in converting to another type of egg. The idea of eating ostrich eggs or even quail eggs stirs something within me that I don’t like acknowledging but know exists. “Am I really supposed to eat that type of egg?” I wonder. Venturing outside of standard hen laying procedures for my eggs feels unexpectedly taboo. But this shouldn’t be seen as a reason to avoid different egg varieties. Instead, it should be used as an excuse to eat more of them. Trying foods that make me cringe a little shakes me from a stagnant routine. Being uncomfortable forces you to wake up.
This is where the quail egg comes in. Consider it a happy medium between hen eggs and those of an emu. Quail eggs have a larger yolk to white ratio, making them richer and more decadent per square inch, which is about a third of the size of a chicken egg. Their dainty size makes it easy to pop the whole thing straight into your mouth without any of the yolk-losing mess that comes with having to cut it up. . Despite these draws, in North America quail eggs are usually served infrequently, and then only as a delicacy. Other cultures know better than this.
In Thailand quail eggs are everywhere, commonly served as a popular street food called khanom krok khai nok krata, meaning fried quail eggs in a khanom krok pan. A khanom krok pan is a frying device that can best be described as what a lovechild between a muffin tin and a cast iron pan would look like. It has individual pockets where each egg is deposited for frying, and its slick cooking surface makes it easy to scoop the eggs out when they’re done.
Photo by geengraphy via Getty iMages
Besides procuring the appropriate pan, khanom krok khai nok krata is strikingly simple to prepare. All you need is some oil, quail eggs, and Maggi or Sriracha for serving. The generous yolk size of each egg gives each delicate bite a bold burst of flavour. Even better, Maggi is often sprayed from a misting bottle over the eggs once they are finished cooking. This punctures each taste with a deliciously salty mist, as though an MSG and umami-flavored ocean just happened to breeze by.
The compact simplicity of the dish makes it the perfect grab-and-go snack, which is how it is often served in Thailand. Egg vendors sell the delicacy from street food stands with nothing more than a toothpick as a vessel to deposit the bite-sized eggs into your mouth. If you cannot locate a khanom krok Pan, a well-oiled cast-iron pan will do, although the end result won’t be quite as shapely. Either way, walking down the street stabbing a plate of khanom krok khai nok krata with a toothpick, or sitting down for a mid-morning snack of a dozen or so salt-sprayed eggs is the type of uncomfortable and delicious experience that is guaranteed to wake you up.
Photo by davincidig via getty images
Khanom Krok Khai Nok Krata
Equipment: a khanom krak pan and a misting bottle
1 dozen quail eggs
Sriracha and Maggi seasoning, to taste
How to Make It
Brush pan with oil and heat on stovetop over medium-high heat until hot. Fill misting bottle with Maggi.
Crack each quail egg into the individual pockets of the khanom krok pan. Cook for 3 minutes, until the bottom and edges are crispy, the white is cooked, and the yolk is still slightly runny.
Scoop each egg out of the khanom krok pan with a spoon and arrange on a plate. Spray with Maggi seasoning and serve with Sriracha.
To eat, stab each egg with a toothpick, and don’t even think about cutting anything in half.