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Chim cút nướng quất/tắc muối / Roasted kumquat quails

We’re excited to share with you a real simple dish we created that’s been a runaway hit at every dinner we’ve served it. At the heart of the dish is our love for the flavor of salted kumquats, with its floral citrus scent transformed into an earthy and complex ancient aroma after months of aging. That flavor paired with juicy, just slightly gamey quails proved to be a winning combination, one that we haven’t encountered anywhere else.

Roasted kumquat quail - photo courtesy of Elaine Vo

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Quất (tắc) muối – Salted kumquats

Things to do with salted kumquat (quất in the North, tắc in the South, quật in the Middle? just kidding, but I did get my recipe from someone spelling in that way) : Make a citrusy iced drink that’s a bit salty a bit sweet, refreshing and optimized for rehydration (classic Vietnamese use of salted kumquats or lemons). Parch the throat of everyone at a hackerspace potluck picnic by making a citrusy iced drink that’s a lot salty and a bit sweet (incompetent use of same). Make a delicious dipping sauce for duck dishes (another classic use). Use as a marinade for a roasted chicken recipe we developed and will write about one of these days.

There are two major schools for making salted kumquats. One involves making the pickling solution ahead of time – basically just salt water with or without sugar and spices. The other involves packing alternate layers of kumquats and salt. Either way, the kumquats and salt jars are placed at a sunny window for about a month before they’re ready. The latter method is easier in that fewer precautions are needed to ensure sterilty of the pickling jar. Err on the sweet side with the brining solution and the whole jar can easily be ruined.

Quất muối jars freshly packed

Kumquats and mason jars were rinsed with boiling water and let dry. For a pint jar of kumquats, I used 1/3 cup of coarse sea salt. The jar on the right also had 1 part ginger slices to 4 parts kumquats. Every monolayer of kumquats was covered with a layer of salt, never minding the fact that kumquats pack too inefficiently for the salt to remain a layer.

Salted kumquats 3 days later - note layer of liquid already

The jars of kumquats were placed by a sunny window. After just 3 days of rare winter sunshine the heating cycle and osmosis in response to salt already extracted an inch of liquid.

Salted kumquats - 2 weeks later

Almost there … but even after they’re “done”, the kumquats should last a long time, developing more complex flavors all the while. They should be perfect when the weather gets hot again, if we don’t use them all up making roasted chicken and duck sauce that is.

Odds and ends: at some point water will stop diffusing out of the kumquats and the fruits will regain their buoyancy. People usually put a small porcelain dish on top of the kumquats to keep them submerged in the coming months. Also, a side by side comparison of our salt layered kumquats versus Bird’s mom’s brined kumquats revealed the latter to be palatably softer and easier to squish into salty kumquatade. Otherwise the flavors were similar enough.