Please don’t look at the word cauliflower and turn your nose up. Come on, that’s just not fair. Just because you had a jaded childhood with this member of the Brassica Oleracea family, it doesn’t mean you should give up on it!
We eat a lot of cauliflower at our house, perhaps even once a week. It is either sauteed, broiled or flash fried. Thankfully these prepping methods take care of that sulfurous contribution this flower otherwise makes (ironic that this should be called a flower at all).
One of my favorite ways to serve cauliflower is a la ‘Manchurian’. Manchuria is in in North East China, but it is suffice to say that more people reference its name in India than anywhere else in the world (including China). Manchurian cuisine is very popular in India and perhaps, deviating from Manchurian ways, it is in fact the Indian spin on Chinese food. The dishes will sound familiar to the layman, but the flavors are kissed by the omnipresence of a tantric culture. Noodles, chicken, vegetables all have the same common denominator - a ton of spice, a generous hit of acid and an element of sweetness.
Some people even go as far as adding spices that are specific to Indian cuisine, such as cumin, coriander seeds and garam masala. Personally, I draw the line at that point as it kills any hint of Manchuria left in the dish and all you are left with is ‘confused-Desi’ (A.K.A. Indian) food.
Manchurian cauliflower is part of every Indo-Chinese menu and it is always summoned to the table. Once you have tried this dish, the reasons for its popularity will become abundantly clear. It is crisp, sticky, sweet and very spicy and will leave your palate yearning for more. Despite the heat, even kids enjoy this dish and you may at the very least succeed in altering their relationship to this veggie.
Crunchy florets of cauliflower tossed in a zesty sauce and finished with a sprinkle of more chili, cilantro and scallions, works really well as an appetizer or an entrée.
- 1 head of cauliflower, broken in to florets
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup of corn starch and 1 tsp. salt for seasoning
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. ground garlic
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 tbsp. sriracha or cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp. vinegar
- 1 onion, rough large dice
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. ginger, chunkily chopped
- Canola oil for frying
- 1 large red chili, finely sliced
- Handful of cilantro
- Salt and pepper to taste
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1) Heat a heavy bottomed pan with 4″ of oil to reach a temperature of 350 degrees
2) Batter: Combine the eggs, cornstarch, salt, pepper, ground ginger and garlic
3) Coat the cauliflower in the batter and fry in batches in the hot oil
4) Drain on paper towels
5) Sauce: In a separate pan, sauté the onion, ginger and garlic pieces. Once onions begin to soften (a couple of minutes), add the ketchup, cayenne or sriracha, vinegar and season with salt and pepper. After a few minutes, the sauce will begin to thicken.
6) Toss cauliflower in sauce and serve hot garnished with sliced red chili and cilantro
To make this dish ahead of time, fry the cauliflower and make the sauce - store separately. Reheat cauliflower in the oven and toss in the reheated sauce once hot.
Saira Malhotra is a classically trained French chef and graduate from the French Culinary Institute. A British born Punjabi, Saira has grown up around food with her family pizza business where she helped spreading tomato sauce and smuggling cheese for her own little stash. Having studied in France and Italy and living in the Big Apple for the past 12 years, Saira has brought her European, Asian and American influences together via the palate and communicated through her food blog: www.passportpantry.com