A few days ago, I attended the Varli Food Festival (http://www.varlifoodfestival.com/) in NYC. This turned out to be a bigger gig than I had original envisioned from the Varli website. The tickets for the festival were sold out in advance and the crowds were immense. It seemed like an Indian-foodie’s equivalent of the Oscars ceremony. The PR campaign by the organizers seemed to be very successful because the red carpet at the entrance was lined with big-lensed cameras and reporters with mikes pushing to get pictures and interviews of TV food celebrities like Padma Lakshmi, Maneet Chauhan, Sanjeev Kapoor and Jehangir Mehta, as they arrived for the festival in their stretch limousines. There were almost 50 Indian restaurants and caterers that had booths showcasing their various dishes. I had gone there with high expectations and was quite disappointed by the food offered by the various businesses. In my view the food items that were made available to the audience looked a lot better than they tasted. I suppose this could be viewed as a feat in itself because food presentation and photography are relatively new to Indian cuisine but somehow I feel like this was achieved at the cost of taste and subtlety of flavor profiles that are so integral to Indian food! The one dish that stood out for me there was a garlic cauliflower dish and so when I came back to DC, I gave it a try. I have to confess that the sauce has a base of tomato ketchup and ketchup is not usually associated with haute cuisine but believe me, this cauliflower dish is really good. Here is the recipe – you be the judge and tell me if you like it.
1. One medium sized head of cauliflower (or half of a large one)
2. Two fresh eggs
3. ½ cup of corn starch
4. 2 large heads of garlic and two extra cloves of garlic
5. ½ cup of tomato ketchup
6. 4 teaspoons of Sriracha sauce
7. 1/3 cup of sugar
8. ¼ cup pf rice vinegar
9. 1 teaspoon of salt (or two taste)
10. ½ teaspoon black pepper
11. 3-4 cups of cooking oil (for deep frying)
12. Some fresh chives for garnish.
1. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Take the roasted garlic out of the oven and let it cool.
4. When the garlic is cool, peel each of the cloves from the heads of garlic and squeeze the pulp of the garlic out and collect in a small bowl. After all the pulp is collected, mash it all together using a small spoon and set it aside so that you can use it to make the sauce later.
5. Cut the head of cauliflower into small florets.
6. Beat the two eggs in a large bowl and mix the corn starch, salt and two teaspoons of Sriracha into the eggs and continue beating till a batter is formed.
7. In a medium sized sauce pan, start heating the cooking oil. Make sure that the oil only covers about half the pot, otherwise when the oil starts to heat and sputter it has space to expand and does not cause injury to you during the frying process.
8. Dip 7-8 cauliflower florets into the batter and slowly lower each of them one by one into the hot oil.
9. Fry all the cauliflower florets in batches of 8-10 and when they start to look golden brown, take them out and place them to drain their excess oil out on a dish covered with dry paper towels.
10. When all the cauliflower florets are fried, start making the sauce by mixing in the tomato ketchup, sugar, vinegar and remaining two teaspoon of Sriracha sauce and the mashed roasted garlic and half a cup of water in a bowl.
11. Peel the remaining two cloves of garlic and dice them in small pieces.
12. In a saucepan, heat a tablespoon of cooking oil over medium heat.
13. When the oil is hot, add the diced garlic to it and when the garlic starts to get a little cooked (lightly browned) add the ketchup mixture from the bowl to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes while stirring constantly.