This version is not exactly a Pa-Lo as it does not contain five-spice powder or any individual spices therein; instead it features quite prominently the flavor and fragrance of the quintessential Thai marinade paste of garlic, white peppercorns, and cilantro roots. Also, while the Thai use soy sauce as the main source of salinity according to the Chinese tradition along with fish sauce, they — true to form — have often opted for palm or coconut sugar as the sweetener. This dish is also a bit sweeter than its traditional Chinese prototype.
My aunt’s version employs a
lazy streamlined method. Instead of starting off with a caramel base as traditionally done, she just dumps the palm sugar into the braising liquid as the chicken is cooking. We haven’t gotten any complaints as far as I know. If the caramel base is very important to you, I’m afraid this recipe will be a disappointment and suggest that you skip it.
Quail eggs and individual chicken wing joints are used here because of the cute factor more than anything. This aunt of mine has four kids and she is the master of kid-friendly food preparation and presentation. If cuteness means squat to you, chicken thighs, drumsticks, or whole wings would be fine; as do chicken or duck eggs. But if you have a thing for tiny foods, you can miniaturize the dish like I’ve done here.
Lastly, you can prepare your own quail eggs, or you can buy ones that come cooked and peeled in 15-ounce cans (found at most Asian grocery stores). Fresh quail eggs certainly taste far better than canned quail eggs. But if the idea of peeling two dozen hard-boiled quail eggs doesn’t appeal to you, tell yourself — as I do — that martyrdom is overrated and use canned eggs. They’re really not that bad. Whatever eggs you use, be sure to peel them without exposing the yolks for failure to do so means that the finished dish will feature chicken swimming in an unappetizing cloudy, pasty pool of sauce. Not a big deal, but you know …
Soy-Braised Chicken Wings with Quail Eggs (ปีกไก่ต้มเค็มกับไข่นกกระทา)
2 lbs chicken wing drummettes and middle joints
24 hard-boiled and peeled quail eggs (or two 15-ounce cans of quail eggs)
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons whole white (or black) peppercorns
200 grams palm sugar
3 tablespoons finely-chopped cilantro roots or stems
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup dark sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
Dark or “white” soy sauce, to taste
(Information on the different soy sauces used here can be found in this post.)
Fresh cilantro for garnish