One theme I have noticed is I have yet to post a non-meat recipe. Now I want to clear the record I’m not some sort of meat savage, so here is my first vegetarian (oh hey this is actually vegan…double points) recipe!
At the intersection of garam masala spices and soy sauces lies a very niche, but incredibly delicious fusion cuisine. Legend has it Indo-Chinese cuisine original from the Chinese community of Kolkata. It is truly incorporating the best of two worlds: like combining the Whole Foods brand with Amazon’s distribution network, or George Costanza and neuroticism.
One particularly popular street food is Gobi (cauliflower in Hindi) Manchurian, which is basically deep-fried cauliflower tossed in a sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce. However, according to my lovely girlfriend, my Gobi Manchurian recipe below actually tastes more Chinese-influenced than Indian-influenced, because the sauce is very similar to a spicy Szechaun sauce.
p.s. as I was editing this post, apparently McDonald’s is bringing back the Szechaun Sauce on October 7th and there are 8 McDonald’s in Manhattan offering the Szechaun Sauce! This will definitely be the next ridiculous food thing Manhattanites queue up for following Cronuts and DŌ.
- Plain Flour
- Corn Flour
- Cheap Beer
- Spice mix (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, red chili powder, crushed red pepper)
- Red Chiles
- Green Onion
- Chili Bean Paste
- Chili Oil
- Soy Sauce
- Sesame Oil
- Spice mix (pepper, red chili powder, crushed red pepper)
The total cook time is ~45 minutes (I know I’m shocked too I posted a recipe requiring under 1 hr of labor).
We need to first blanch the cauliflower before frying, so bring a pot of water to a boil (do not forget to salt the water). Breakdown the cauliflower into even sized florets and add to boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Do not boil too long, because the cauliflower will become mushy and difficult to coat with the batter (the fork poke is a good test)! Drain excess water and pat dry.
Prepare the sauce while the cauliflower is cooling. In my opinion, a sauce -> frying preparation order is better, because you want toss and coat your dish immediately after frying, so it can served hot. No one wants to eat cold, deep-fried food.1
Anyways, mince garlic and ginger and finely chop the green chilies, and add to a saucepan or wok and saute for 2 mins.
1 Actually I take that back, I’ll eat deep fried anything, hot, cold, lukewarm, April 25th temperature…but I would prefer eating hot deep fried food.
Add diced bell pepper and finely chopped spring onions and continue sauteing for 1 min.
Add chili paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper seasoning and simmer. Depending on your sauce consistency preference, you can simmer longer or add flour for a thicker sauce, or add water for a thinner sauce.
Now let’s make the batter and I may catch some flak for this section. Controversy!
Most All of the other Gobi Manchurian recipes I found online use water in the batter. However, from previously making fish and chips, using beer can actually make for a really crunchy, crispy skin…so when I was preparing this for the first time, I thought (⚆_⚆) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ why wouldn’t this work for cauliflower? Let’s experiment!
So I later did some
research googling, and found there is actually a scientific reason for using beer batter as opposed to water batter to fry foods. Apparently three ingredients (alcohol, carbon dioxide, and proteins) in beer produce a better fry. Alcohol evaporates faster than water, so beer batter doesn’t have to cook as long, but still has enough solubility for the flour stick to the food. Carbon dioxide (the bubbles in beer) immediately expands and forms an insulating layer when it comes in contact with hot oil and protects the food from the high heat since the heat goes into the batter. The bubbles also stiffen the flour leading to a firm, but light and airy texture. Lastly, the proteins act as foaming agents to protect the carbon dioxide bubbles, which is why beer is better than other liquids with carbon dioxide. Sadly substituting a can of beer for a can of peach pear LaCroix won’t yield the same result.1
TL:DR The beer bubbles and alcohol make a crisper skin, because science.
Anyways, in a large mixing bowl, combine plan flour, corn flour, and spice mix and spread evenly. Pour 1 can of cheap American2 beer and stir until you have a thick paste.
1 So basically I summarized this article, and if AP US History taught me anything, it’s that proper citation is key! So yeah here’s the link some PhD person wrote.
2 Actually Budweiser is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is a Belgian-Brazilian beverage/brewing company with headquarters in Belgium…so I guess not American?
Dunk the cooled cauliflower florets in the beer batter and coat evenly.
Heat a deep stock pot or saucepan with vegetable oil until about 350°. Drop the florets into the oil1 and fry for ~5-7 mins (until crunchy). The cauliflower is done frying once it floats to the top and has a dark brown skin.
1 I did something very very stupid here. I put way too much oil into the saucepan, so it almost overflowed and caused a grease fire when I dropped the cauliflower florets into the oil. Leave yourself at least 3 inches from the top of the pot!
Drain them onto a paper towel and toss with sauce after they have cooled down.
Garnish with green onion and serve (this goes great with a side of white rice). Be sure to softly whisper “this is vegan therefore it can only be healthy” 3 times to yourself before eating this deep-fried vegetable glory.