The Mixing Bowl: Gobi Manchurian al la Mexican

(Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

Would anyone be so odd as to choose to prepare a dish just because it had a strange name? It appears so. The dish’s name is Gobi Manchurian and I came across it on a menu board in a small, busy, but on the shabby side Indian restaurant in New York City. I was perplexed. The Gobi Desert is the sixth largest desert in the world in northeast China.  Manchurians were a group of people who lived in north of China.

We had already ordered and were eating so it was too late to try it. When I got home, I had to check it out. It turns out that gobi means cauliflower in Hindu and Manchurian in India refers to Chinese so it’s an Indian-Chinese dish

The internet had many Gobi Manchurian recipes divided into dry and wet versions. It is a highly popular vegetarian dish and maybe you have already heard of it. I decided to try a dry version from VegeCraving.com from May 4, 2016. It looked pretty good and I was happy with the results. Crispy deep-fried cauliflower florets tasted great covered in a spicy sauce made with green and red chili sauces.

Because of the wide availability of Mexican red and green chili sauces in our area, I made some adjustments substituting them for Indian chilis in the original recipe. Many Californians already have varied salsas in our kitchens and the recipe calls for such small amounts I think you can be creative. Chilis are, after all, native to our neighbor, Mexico. The dish goes well with rice but would work just as well with tortillas and beans.

Cauliflowers are looking lovely right now so it’s a great time to try this. The recipe calls for a finely milled flour from India called “maida”, but our all-purpose flour would also be fine.

Deep fried cauliflower florets

1 medium sized cauliflower

4-5 tablespoons finely milled cake or pizza flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon ginger, finely minced

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 ½ cups high heat oil like peanut, avocado or corn oil

Sauce

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, grated

1 green serrano chili, 1 teaspoon, finely chopped

½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped

½ cup green onion, finely chopped

½ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped

2 teaspoons green chili sauce, or salsa verde made with tomatillos

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons Chinese black or rice vinegar

1 teaspoon red chili sauce or tomato ketchup

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Prepare garlic, ginger, onions and red bell pepper in advance. Mince about 5-6 cloves of garlic and ginger as fine as you can. Then finely chop the red bell pepper and yellow onion. Slice green onions and set it all aside.

Wash cauliflower and break or cut it into bite sized florets. Bring some salted water to boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the cauliflower florets to the water and let them blanch in the salted water on low-medium heat for around 10 minutes. They should be tender but firm. Drain the florets and place them on an absorbent paper or towel to dry.

Take a deep bowl and add flour, cornstarch, garlic, ginger, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, red chili powder and salt. Mix all the ingredients together and add water to make a smooth paste. It should neither be too thick nor too thin. Add more water if necessary. Add the florets to the batter and coat them evenly.

Prepare to deep fat fry. Put a strainer over a bowl for the first stop after frying and then put paper towels on a tray for the final place to drain. Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. Don’t leave the stove at this point. Carefully deep fry the florets in batches until they turn golden brown. Adjust the heat as necessary so florets don’t burn or cook too slowly. Flip them to ensure even cooking. Drain the excess oil and place them on an absorbent paper. Set aside and make the sauce.

Make the sauce by first heating 2 tablespoons oil in a pan over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and finely chopped serrano chili. Add finely chopped yellow and green onions, and red bell pepper. Fry on medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add soy sauce, vinegar, green chili sauce and red chili sauce. You can also use tomato ketchup. Finally, add black pepper and salt, to taste. Stir, mix all the ingredients and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the florets to the mixture. Toss the mixture to coat the florets evenly with the sauce. Stir the mixture and cook on high flame for 3-4 minutes. Serve.

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