Friday, May 15, 2009

Mark Bittman's Manchurian-Style Cauliflower

I know, I know, ANOTHER cauliflower recipe. I can't help myself; I love cauliflower. This recipe is from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian", and it's fantastic. It's a deep fried recipe, so it's a bit of work to make, but it's so worth it.

I rarely do any deep-frying as I don't like to deal with all the oil and all the mess. Still, Mark Bittman raves about this recipe so I really wanted to try it. The batter used to coat the cauliflower is so light that this does not end up being your typical greasy deep-fried veggies. It is surprising light and tastes like cauliflower, and not breading.

Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
3 eggs
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt for batter and more for sauce
1 large, or 2 small heads of cauliflower, cored, trimmed, and separated into florets
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
1 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Put at least 2 inches of oil in a deep pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high; bring to 350F.

Beat the eggs and cornstarch together until well blended in a bowl large enough to hold the cauliflower. Note:I had the hardest time getting the cornstarch incorporated into the eggs. I added a few splashes of buttermilk to help things along, which I think turned out well because it made the batter even lighter. Season the batter with pepper and salt, then add the cauliflower. Use your hands to toss until the florets are coated evenly.

Fry the cauliflower in batches small enough not to crowd your pan and be sure to let the oil return to 350F between batches. Fry until florets take on a pale, sandy color, with a little brown mottling, about 5 minutes; transfer to paper towels to drain.

Note: The remainder of the recipe is for making the sauce and coating the cauliflower. I didn't take any photos of the sauce because I made it at a later time. The plain cooked cauliflower is just so good on its own, you may not even want to make any sauce.

Warm 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick pan or wok over medium heat and immediately add the minced garlic. Cook the garlic for a minute or two, until fragrant but not colored, then add ketchup. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, until sauce bubbles, thickens, and starts to caramelize around the edges of the pan. Add the cayenne; taste and add salt if necessary. Toss the cauliflower in the sauce until coated evenly and serve.

This would be a good recipe to make for a gathering as you can spear individual florets with toothpicks; that's how it is commonly sold on the streets of Calcutta where this is a popular dish.


  1. YUM! They look delicious. I would eat them. Little scared of frying things myself. But I would definitely eat them.

  2. Frying is one of my least favorite cooking techniques, but these were so delicious!