How to Make It
In a medium saucepan, combine the soy sauce with the water, shallots, rice vinegar, five-spice powder, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and peppercorns. Simmer over moderately high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature, then strain the sauce into a large bowl. Add the quail and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
Remove the quail from the marinade and pat dry. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the quail and cook over high heat until the skin is browned and the meat is rare, about 3 minutes per side. Cut the quail in half lengthwise and serve hot, with the Watercress Salad.