Tamil Nadu style quail masala

An upscale quail tale!

Reading Time: 3 minutes


A traditional preparation from Tamil Nadu, this dish is a must try for all quail lovers. The gravy is mildly spiced and light but packs much flavour from all the whole spices and aromatics.

Quail meat is often considered to be a delicacy. While it is similar in flavour to chicken, duck etc, it has a deeper and more intense flavour with a hint of wild game note to it. Also, being a smaller bird, it has almost an equal ratio of meat to bones.

The meat is darker and more comparable to duck rather than chicken which has white meat. It’s denser and hence, the cooking method chosen must be suitable to accentuate the true flavour of the meat.

To make this Tamil Nadu style quail dish, the meat is first shallow fried and then slow cooked in a gravy with spices and aromatics. This helps keeps the meat juicy and tender.

This quail masala is as much about the spices as the meat.

The ingredient list might read long but it’s just a handful of whole spices, so making this dish is pretty simple.

It’s the spices, both whole and powdered, that lend the layers of flavour to the gravy. It also enhances the taste of the quail meat, taking away some of its gamey-ness yet retaining the flavour of the meat.

The best combination for this quail masala is ghee rice. Aromatic rice cooked with ghee and spices is a heavenly rice dish – it’s a must try. You could also pair with chapattis, rotis, appams (hoppers) etc.

Quail Masala Curry on Ghee Rice (Source: Supplied)



To shallow fry

5 quail, cut in half lengthwise (refer notes)

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp red chilli powder

Salt, to season

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

To make masala

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 bay leaf

1 black cardamom

4 green cardamom

4 cloves

1 inch cinnamon bark

3 dry red chilli

4 red onions; thinly sliced

2-3 green chilli (based on heat preferences)

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

¼ cup fresh coriander leaves

2 large ripe tomatoes; sliced

1 tsp crushed ginger

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tsp red chilli powder

½ tsp cumin powder

½ tsp fennel powder

1.5 tbsp coriander powder

3 cups water (refer notes)


3 sprigs fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped

1 tsp lemon juice

(Source: Supplied)


To shallow fry quail

Cut the quail in half lengthwise, clean and wash well. Allow to drain.

Marinate the quail with turmeric and chilli powder for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry the quail on both sides for 2 minutes each. (Refer notes)

Keep aside.

To make masala

Heat oil in a large wok/kadhai and add bay leaf, green and black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and dry red chilli. Fry for 30 seconds on low heat.

Next add the onions, green chilli, coriander and mint leaves; sauté on medium heat till the onions are soft and translucent, just starting to take on the golden brown colour.

Add the ginger, garlic and tomatoes; sauté till the rawness of the aromatics goes away and the tomatoes are soft and mushy.

Next add cumin, coriander and fennel powder; mix thoroughly and continue to cook till the mixture comes together and oil starts to leave from the edges.

Add water and bring to boil.

Finally, add the shallow fried quail, mix well. Taste and season with salt if necessary. At this point, you can also add more green chillies or chilli powder if you prefer it spicy.

Continue to cook on low heat till the quail is soft and tender. Took about 12 minutes but this will depend on the number and size of quail.

Remove from heat and add lemon juice and coriander leaves. Stir through.

Keep covered for 15 minutes before serving your Tamil Nadu style quail.


  • The quail can be cooked whole, cut in half lengthwise or cut into smaller pieces.
  • The quail can be deep fried too if you prefer that texture.
  • The amount of water can be increased or decreased depending on the preferred consistency of gravy.

READ ALSO: Rishi Desai’s Buttered Quail

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