Extra Crispy Cauliflower Tempura with Sweet Chili Sauce

So there was this Cauliflower sitting in our fridge staring at us every time we opened the door, wondering what we would do with it, and we'd just grab something else. Poor Cauli! But it's time had come. We were invited to a potluck to our friends place over the weekend and there was a movie in the backyard on the cards for the night. I think I was more excited than my 3 y.o. Scratch maybe, I was! And also equally excited about this cauliflower recipe that I was going to make.

Besides the recent revival in reputation, the cauliflower has been left alone unbothered for a long time. I grew up eating it on the regular as Aloo Gobhi a traditional Indian dish where the vegetable is cooked with potatoes and spices, also from the Indian-Chinese side of foods, the Gobhi Manchurian was a staple for us when we went out for Chinese night as kids! Delicious! And today I felt inspired by that memory and I wanted to give it a new life.

I wanted the Cauliflower to be even more bad ass! Bold, spicy and robust, crunchy and exciting. I was thinking Cauliflower tempura with a sweet and spicy sweet chili sauce. Oh and what else makes this cauli bad ass? It's extra crispy and the secret is in twice-frying. Yep. It's fried twice and it makes a world of difference.

When you bite into the cauliflower you'll be surprised to hear some serious crunch and then you taste the fresh ginger, the sweet and spicy sauce with tender cauliflower emerging from within becoming the closing notes of this memorable experience.

Cauliflower Tempura with Sweet Chili Sauce

Serves 4

Vegetable Ingredients
1 head of Cauliflower (washed, stemmed and cut into equal medium-sized florets)
4 inch piece of fresh Ginger root (peeled and sliced thin)
1 bell pepper chopped fine (any color you like)
3 Stems of fresh scallions chopped fine plus some for garnish (cut garnish scallion on a bias to make them look all fancy ;)
8 cups of boiling water
Oil for deep frying (high heat oil like Corn or Safflower oil)
Ice bath for cauliflower

Tempura Batter Ingredients
To make life super easy, I followed this master recipe from Saveur. I recommend you do the same too!
In addition to this batter, I added the following to it
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp Ginger powder
• 1 tsp salt

Sauce Ingredients
1 cup Store-bought sweet chili sauce (I bought mine at Trader Joes)
1/2 cup Soy Sauce (reduced sodium is what I used)
Splash of rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Fresh Ginger!

Fresh Ginger!

In a large pot (or if you have a fryer get that ready with enough oil to deep fry per the manufacturer recommendations) heat enough oil to fry the cauliflower on medium high heat. The oil should be enough to barely submerge and coat each floret.

Bring water to boil in large and deep pot. Blanch the cauliflower florets for 3 to 4 minutes.

The florets

The florets

When done, place the cauliflower in an ice bath to stop cooking.

Get the Tempura batter ready as per this recipe and add the black pepper, salt and ginger powder to it. Set aside.

When the oil is hot enough to fry (360 degrees measured with a cooking thermometer preferably) or just drop a wooden chopstick in the oil, and if it starts to bubble you're ready. The simple things :)

Pat dry the florets well with paper towel and dredge them in some flour to make sure the batter sticks evenly.

Dip the florets in the batter and carefully drop them in the hot oil. Fry in small batches of 8-10 florets per session to make sure that the oil temperature doesn't drop too low and also that the pan doesn't get too crowded.

Let it go for 2 minutes and flip and fry for another minute or 2, or till you have pale golden color florets.

Set aside in a dish lined with paper towel to soak up excess oil. Repeat with other florets.

Turn the heat on the pot with the oil to as low as your stove will go, to keep the oil warm for our next fry session. If you prefer you can turn it off for safety.

In another pan heat up 2 tbsp of oil on medium high heat, and when the oil is hot enough, add the veggies—the scallions the ginger and bell pepper. Stir fry quickly for 2 minutes and add the soy sauce, the rice wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Stir it around for another 30 seconds and add the sweet chili sauce. Stir fry for a minute. The sauce is ready. Turn off the flame and set aside.

Look at the colors! You can almost taste it.

The sweet chili sauce

The sweet chili sauce

Now bring up the heat on the oil again, for our quick second fry session for the cauliflower, turn it up to high. You want the oil to be around 360 degrees or higher. But no more that 375.

One by one add the florets back in and they should immediately be bubbling and sizzling. I recommend frying around 8-10 per session to give them ample room. Fry for 1-2 minutes per side, or till you have caramel like golden brown color. Remove the florets into a bowl/dish lined with paper towel.

Repeat with other florets. When done turn off the stove and cover the oil safely. It's work is done.

Here's how to discard cooking oil.
(When cold please discard the oil safely by pouring the oil into an empty milk carton or an old, unrecyclable takeout container and toss it in the trash. Wipe pan with a paper towel to remove any excess grease.)

Final step, in a big mixing bowl, transfer the florets and pour the sauce over them evenly and gently fold them over, making sure every single floret is dredged with the sauce. Salivate.

Garnish with some scallions and serve with your 3 year old's training chopsticks :) Because that's what I had. Haha.

But seriously, doesn't this look bad ass and awesome? I mean, I want to bite into every crunchy floret and then keep repeating. Also a great #MeatlessMonday dish I say! Who thought beer food could be nutritious too.  Emegerrrd! Too many good things about this dish!

Can you hear the cauling?

Can you hear the cauling?

Crunch, sweet, spicy and gingery.

Crunch, sweet, spicy and gingery.

Kids chopsticks are the best!

Kids chopsticks are the best!

So there you go guys! Another easy and awesome recipe is yours to try! Especially good for you too, since it involved what kids call "the-weird-flower-that-no-one-ever-gives-to-anyone-for-their-birthday-dad"

Love and Nomaste