Depending on your dietary preferences, you can typically choose between chicken, shrimp, paneer, or cauliflower when it comes to the Manchurian dish. Some versions include a gravy, while a “dry” version is served with a dipping sauce. But the overall design is similar. This version uses bite-size cauliflower florets and a spicy gravy made with chiles, and I add in a little bit of sambal oelek for an added punch of flavor. Serve this on a bed of warm steamed rice.
- To prepare the batter, whisk all the ingredients from the flour to the cayenne pepper in a medium bowl to form a batter with a thick, pancake-like consistency. Fold the cauliflower into this batter and toss to coat evenly.
- Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan or cast-iron Dutch oven till it reaches 375°F. Once the oil is hot, fry the battered cauliflower in batches until golden brown, about 4½ to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower onto a tray lined with paper towels to grab any excess oil.
- To prepare the gravy, heat the oil in a wok or medium-size saucepan on high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until they start to turn translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, bell pepper and 1 serrano pepper and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the stock, soy sauce, and vinegar and bring to a rolling boil. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and water to form a slurry and stir it quickly into the stock to avoid forming lumps. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the sambal oelek and salt. The gravy will thicken a little. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Fold in the fried cauliflower florets, and garnish with the remaining sliced serrano, fresh scallions, and cilantro. Serve hot.
Nik Sharma is an award-winning freelance food writer and photographer. He also writes a recipe-based food column for the San Francisco Chronicle called A Brown Kitchen and is also the author of the blog A Brown Table. His first cookbook, Season (Chronicle Books), was published in October 2018. He lives in Oakland, California.