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Tasty BBQ recipes

Vietnamese-inspired BBQ RECIPES to serve 8

Sticky quail in honey and 5-spice


A platter of Vietnamese-style, honeyed quail makes an exotic substitute for the humble burger, in case you were looking for summery barbecue inspiration. The sticky marinade will work just as well on chicken wings, thighs or drumsticks - and even on tofu - if quail feels like a step too far.   


The poultry skin, chicken or quail, will take on beautiful, charred tones and the skin will crisp and caramelize as it cooks. I often cheat by gently cooking chicken through in the oven first, finishing it off on the barbecue with lots of extra marinade brushed on.     


Serves 8

Prep 20 minutes plus marinating

Cook about 12 minutes


8 quail

For the marinade:

a thumb-sized piece of ginger

3 tbsp dark soy sauce

3 tbsp runny honey

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp 5-spice powder

2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

3 spring onions, green parts only, shredded


For the lemon and pepper dipping sauce:

2 lemons, juice only

2 tsp ground white pepper

1 tsp sea salt


Vietnamese table salad, pickled vegetables and nuoc cham dipping sauce, are good to serve this with (see recipes below)


Using a pair of sharp scissors, snip through the breastbone of each quail, opening them out flat. Rinse under the tap and dry thoroughly with kitchen towel.


Grate the ginger finely, skin and all. Gather up the gratings and, holding your hands over a bowl, squeeze to release all the liquid. Discard the dry gratings. 


Add all the marinade ingredients to the bowl and slather over the quail. Cover the bowl and set aside to chill for a few hours or overnight. Two hours will do, if that’s all you have. 


Make sure the barbecue coals are white-hot and ashen with no trace of flame (this will take about an hour so light it well in advance)


If you don’t want to (or can’t) cook on the barbecue, heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan, 400°F, gas mark 6 and line a large roasting tin with foil.  Place a large griddle pan over a fierce heat until it’s positively smoking. Working in two or three batches, shake the quail free of any excess marinade and griddle, skin-side down first, for a minute or so on each side, until burnished brown and charred in places. Transfer to the roasting tin, skin-sides up as you go. When all have been griddled, pour any leftover marinade over and roast for 10 minutes until just cooked through but still juicy.


Either way, once the quail are cooked, pile up on a platter, scatter with shredded spring onions and serve with the table salad and pickled vegetables, below. Make the nuoc cham dipping sauce too, if you’re really pushing the boat out.  


Vietnamese table salad


A Vietnamese-style table salad is there to wrap, roll and generally customise your supper. Use the larger lettuce leaves as carriers, filling them with any combination of rice noodles, fragrant herbs, a tangle of pickled vegetables and perhaps a slice of starfruit or cucumber. Add your main event – a boneless piece of quail or chicken in this case – roll the lettuce leaf around the filling, dip in the nuoc cham dipping sauce and eat.  


Enough for 8 as an accompaniment


250g fine rice noodles

a small bunch of coriander

a small bunch of mint

a small bunch of Vietnamese mint or Thai basil

a large handful of perilla or shiso leaves, if you can find it (optional)

2 heads round lettuce, leaves separated, rinsed and dried

1 cucumber, sliced on the diagonal

1 starfruit, sliced (optional)

pickled vegetables, see below

nuoc cham dipping sauce, see below


Either divide between individual serving bowls, keeping the components in groups rather than mixing them up, or serve on communal platters for your guests to help themselves from.


Pickled vegetables


These quick pickles will keep, chilled, in their pickling bath for a good couple of weeks.


Makes enough for 8 as an accompaniment


90g Caster sugar

180ml Rice vinegar

300g Carrots, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks

200g Daikon (white radish), peeled and cut into fine matchsticks


Combine the sugar and vinegar with 100ml water and a pinch of salt in a bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the vegetable matchsticks and set aside for 2 hours to pickle them.


Vietnamese dipping sauce, nuoc cham


The ubiquitous (in Vietnam anyway) Nuoc Cham is based on good-quality Nuoc Mam, Vietnamese fish sauce. Versions abound, but this one makes an excellent, entry-level sauce to be adjusted to taste. Variations include adding finely chopped garlic and/or ginger and/or finely shredded pickled carrot and radish. It can also double up as a light dressing for any number of Asian salads; perfect for hot days.


Makes enough for 8


4 tbsp caster sugar

6 tbsp rice wine vinegar

6 tbsp good-quality fish sauce (nuoc mam)

2 limes, juice only

2-3 Thai chillies, finely chopped


Gently heat the caster sugar with the vinegar, fish sauce and 150ml water, until the sugar dissolves. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Let cool. Add the lime and 2-3 finely chopped chillies, depending on your preference for heat. Serve in little pots or dishes or use as a salad dressing. 

Adapted from friends at my table, by Alice Hart

Published by Quadrilled, photographs by Emma Lee