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Crisp oolong-smoked quail with mandarin-ginger dipping sauce

Australian Gourmet Traveller Asian-style recipe for crisp oolong-smoked quail with mandarin-ginger dipping sauce.

By Emma Knowles & Lisa Featherby
  • Serves 4
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 15 mins cooking plus marinating, standing
Crisp oolong-smoked quail with mandarin-ginger dipping sauce
Crisp oolong-smoked quail with mandarin-ginger dipping sauce

Reserve the peel from the mandarins you use in the dipping sauce and add a little to the smoking mixture.

Smoking tips

When smoking inside, ensure your kitchen is well ventilated, with the extractor fan on high and any windows open, to avoid triggering smoke alarms.

A well-sealed vessel is essential for smoking. Use two baking trays of exactly the same size, and seal the join with long strips of foil, crimping the edges tightly.

If you are using regular baking trays to smoke, line the base and sides of each one with several layers of foil. This will make them easier to clean and minimise tainting.

Alternatively, disposable aluminium trays are available from supermarkets and specialist barbecue shops. Opt for the sturdier ones for ease of handling.

Be precise with your timing, including the amount of time you stand the smoking vessel before you uncover it. Any greater length of time could result in an acrid, unpleasant flavour. We suggest taking the trays outside when uncovering them.

Make sure your woodchips are dry and dense to begin with. Each variety imparts a different flavour, so try experimenting with different ones to find your favourite.

The recipes we've produced here all use a hot-smoking method, where a direct heat source is used. The other method used by some manufacturers of smoked products is cold smoking, where the smoke is created in a chamber separate from the product to be smoked. In this case, the lower the temperature while smoking for a longer period of time, the more smoke flavour will be imparted.

Kettle-style barbecues (such as those made by Weber) are excellent for smoking as you can use them outside and they have a small compact chamber. If you're using any other type of barbecue, check the manufacturer's instructions before building a fire base.


  • 1 tbsp Sichuan pepper
  • 2 pieces dried mandarin peel (see note)
  • 2 tbsp sea salt flakes
  • 2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 8 jumbo quail, butterflied
  • 180 gm long-grain rice
  • 90 gm brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp oolong tea leaves
  • 2 each cinnamon quills and star anise
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
Mandarin-ginger dipping sauce
  • 3 mandarins, white membrane removed, flesh coarsely chopped
  • 30 gm caster sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp each soy sauce and black Chinkiang vinegar (see note)
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced


  • 1
    Pound Sichuan pepper and dried mandarin peel in a mortar and pestle until finely ground, then combine with salt and ginger in a small bowl. Rub well all over quail, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • 2
    Scatter rice, brown sugar, tea and spices in a disposable foil roasting pan (see note) and place an oiled wire rack on top (elevate it by resting it on small metal dariole moulds). Brush excess curing mixture from quail, place quail in a single layer on a wire rack, top with another disposable foil roasting pan of the same size, then cover edges with foil and crimp to seal well. Place pan over medium-high heat and cook until smoke appears, reduce heat to low and smoke for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stand for 5 minutes before removing lid, then halve quail and set aside.
  • 3
    Meanwhile, for mandarin-ginger dipping sauce, combine mandarin, juice, caster sugar, ginger and garlic in a small saucepan, bring to the simmer over medium heat and cook until thick (4-5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Just before serving, stir in spring onion.
  • 4
    Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add quail in batches, skin-side down, cook until browned (1 minute), turn and cook for another minute. Serve hot with mandarin-ginger dipping sauce.


Note Dried mandarin peel and Chinkiang vinegar are available from Chinese grocers. Disposable roasting pans are available from supermarkets and specialist barbecue shops. Alternatively, use two flameproof roasting pans of the same size and line each with several layers of foil. Drink suggestion by Max Allen

  • Author: Emma Knowles & Lisa Featherby