Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cauliflower Manchurian – a popular Indo-Chinese favourite

What comes to your mind when you see a plump, fresh, and inviting cauliflower? Aloo Gobi? A simple cauliflower curry? Gobi Manchurian? It sure was the last one for us. We never deep fry at home unless it is for a huge crowd – but on the whole, never when it’s just the two of us. Since we had planned on calling some friends home for dinner, I allowed myself to deep fry after what seemed like ages.

This is one of Pop’s favourite dish. However, I’m sure Mum never voluntarily indulged in too much deep frying either, whenever he asked for it. So secretly, whenever Mum was away with grandma, or generally out, I would take charge of the kitchen and cook this up for Dad and we would devour it together with fried rice. Yes Mum, now you know! But of course, this was only if there was a cauliflower in the fridge.

Last week, Mum was talking about a big fresh cauliflower she bought from the market and about how Dad was pestering her to make Manchurian out of it. S, upon hearing this, began craving for it and to be fair to him, I had never made this at home after marriage. So I decided to add it on to Saturday’s dinner menu. A big pointer, always make sure this dish is cooked just before dinner, you can get the basics all ready and set, but cook it right before dinner – otherwise, it’ll get soggy sitting in that sauce.

Gobi literally means Cabbage, whereas Phool Gobi translates to Cauliflower. When fried cabbage and vegetable dumplings are cooked in sauce, some call that Gobi Manchurian. But on a large scale, Gobi Manchurian relates to cauliflower.

Things I needed –
1. 2 cauliflowers – 1 big and the other medium, chopped into florets

2. Ginger – finely grated 2 tablespoons

3. Garlic – finely chopped – 2 tablespoons

4. Green bell pepper – half of a big one, diced

5. Purple onion – half of a big one, diced

6. Spring onions – 1 bunch, finely chopped

7. Green chillis – 4 small numbers finely chopped

8. Soya sauce – 1 teaspoon; Schezwan sauce – 1 tablespoon; Tomato ketchup – 1 tablespoon

9. Vinegar, salt, ajinomoto, corn starch

10.All purpose flour, corn flour, gram flour – 2:1:1/2 measure

11.Chilli powder; Garam masala; Food colour (optional)

12.Canola oil to fry

Here’s how you dish it up –
1. Cook the chopped cauliflower in boiling water with salt and turmeric for 5 minutes. Let stand for a few more minutes and drain. Alternatively, you can pre-cook it in the microwave with according settings.

2. Bring together the all purpose flour, corn flour and gram flour, chilli powder (according to your threshold), garam masala and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the flour together using water and make it into a smooth batter. Use some food colour if you want some bright red Manchurian. The corn flour’s purpose is to add the crunch. Add 1 tablespoon each of ginger and garlic to this batter. Alternatively, you may add ginger garlic paste. Many people don't use besan, but I have noticed it gives a good textured coating to the cauliflower. However, too much of it could make you feel like you're eating a cauliflower bhajji. Thus the 2:1:1/2 measure.

3. Dip the pre-cooked cauliflowers in this batter and deep fry in canola oil. It is important that you use the right oil for Indian dishes. Cooking Indian dishes in olive oil changes the flavour too obviously.

4. Strain the excess oil from the batter-fried cauliflower using paper towels and a colander while you get set to prepare the sauce.

5. Heat some oil, add the rest of the ginger and garlic, finely chopped bulbs of spring onion and green chillis, fry them well.

6. Add the diced purple onion and bell pepper. Saute them lightly, do not overcook. This needs to be crunchy.

7. Add the sauces, vinegar, salt and ajinomoto. Mix well, add some water and 1 spoon of corn starch. This will thicken this sauce. The corn flour in India used to give a glossy finish, but that doesn’t happen with the corn starch we get here in the US. We are indeed used to the glossy looking Chinese dishes though.

8. Now add the fried cauliflower, give it a good mix, and garnish with chopped spring onion leaves.

This measure serves 6 people. Alter accordingly if you are cooking for more or less. This dish can be served as a starter. Many make this a gravy based dish too, but the semi-dry version is far more popular. We prefer eating this out as we can avoid all the deep frying at home. Somehow, too much deep frying makes me feel nauseous, even if I’m only cooking and not eating it. But, we just don’t find our favourite Indo-Chinese dishes here in the US.

Knowing S’s attitude towards healthy eating, I know he’s not going to ask me to dish this up again, of course unless we’re having guests. Make sure you don’t let the dish rest in the sauce for real long. It will get soggy. Alternately, you could pop the fried cauliflower in the oven on hold warm to make sure they stay crisp, and add them to the sauce just when your guests are about to arrive.


  1. Wow now you've made me crave for Gobi Manchurian. It indeed is a wonderful dish. The only difference when I make this i make the batter out of corn flour with the spices alone.

  2. Yeah corn flour makes it crisp, but to add to the rest of the batter we add maida. I add besan on my own. In fact previously I have fried it with just besan and corn flour, that also turned out good. But the corn flour in India is different.