It must have been at least 4 months since we last went to Thao Tien, and I’ve been telling myself to blog about this place ever since, but for some reason every record of our visit had mysteriously disappeared. Did I not take picture? What happened to the receipt? I have no idea. But the amazing taste of roasted quails haunts me in my sleep. We just had to go back to take pictures again, and it’s only appropriate to complete this last hour of the Ox year with the best of birdies.
Thao Tien actually specializes in hủ tíu, a noodle soup with slightly sweet broth, chewy noodle, fried shallot, usually accompanied by pork and shrimp (I blogged about it before at Bún Bò Huế Cố Đô). With the southern Vietnamese theme, the house not only has their waiters dress in áo bà ba but also extends its menu to include the less commonly seen savories like chim cút rô-ti (roasted quail) and cá kèo kho tiêu (a kind of freshwater fish – the “elongate mudskipper“, if you absolutely must know – simmered in fish sauce and caramel sauce much like cá kho tộ, but with a lot of black pepper for kicks). Among the daily specials, Mudpie was excited about the ca keo kho tieu, but unfortunately it was only served for dinner that day. Still, the quails are up for grab anytime, and expensive as they were ($7.95 for 2 birds), we drove 50 miles here just for them.
The birds, split and stretched, were just as long as my hand from nail to wrist. Their plump breasts and legs rival those of a frog, no fat, just honest meat and thin crispy skin. The marinade seeped through every strand of muscle in that vibrant little body. Lemon and salt pepper mix came with them, but was unnecessary, the birds needed no aid to taste good. The moment we grabbed them, our fingers got busy tearing them apart, and our eyes focused on getting every scrap off the bones. Table manners we lost, vicious beasts we became. And the aftermath:
I remember the hủ tíu here is good, bò lúc lắc (shaken beef) is quite delicious, Hainanese chicken rice is not the most exciting thing, but if I could, I would come here every week just for the quail. Thank goodness Thao Tien isn’t close to me, or I’d go bankrupt being a quailitarian.
1 shaken beef (9.75) + 1 Hainanese chicken rice (8.50) + 2 roasted quail (7.95)
Friendly service and spacious setting.
Address: Thao Tien Restaurant
Grand Century Mall
1111 Story Rd #1080
San Jose, CA 95122