A Vegetarian’s Take on Simple, Fuss Free Ingredients Made Healthy!
I have been a vegetarian for 8 years after witnessing the way poultry was bred and mass marketed while interning as a student journalist in Wisconsin. Along with revelling in the fact that I was doing a small part in preserving animal welfare, I was also utterly surprised with my growing passion for food hence leading to regular nights experimenting in the dorm kitchens. It was during this time that I met Bhinni, a Chindian whom I ended up spending one Christmas season with at her home. Boy, her mom cooks like a dream and we had an unconventional Christmas dinner with a twist of homemade.
There were many dishes that sang high praises that night but one truly piqued my interest the most. It was a vegan take on the classic Indo-Chinese dish – Gobi Manchurian. Typically made with chicken, Mama Bhinni battered cauliflower in a flour mix instead before deep-frying it to crispy goodness and smothering the veggies with a sticky, tomato-based sauce.
Ever since returning from the States, I have yet to see something like this on Indian menus so every time a craving strikes I have to oblige by whipping up a platter. Being the health advocate, I decided to batter and roast the florets instead of deep-frying. No added fat from the fryer, nary a smell of grease filling the house and sweating over a hot stove. We have a winner!
Plus, using our Malaysian favourite palm oil adds a je ne sais quoi to the dish. You may know that palm oil is rich in Vitamin E but did you know which other antioxidant reacts the best with the E? Vitamin C! Taken together, these vitamins are said to reduce the harmful build-up on your arteries hence strengthening your cardiovascular health by multiple folds! And I must say, this is a simple dish to make in less than 45 mins as the sauce and veggies can be done at the same time, mixed together and voila! Dinnertime!
If there is anything that screams fusion in this dish, it’s the sauce. On one hand, you have the baked cauliflower (or fried in most Indian cooking) and the Chinese hints of soy sauce and spring onions simmered together with a dollop of tomato paste for that sweet balance. The veggie truly soaks up the sauce very well and leaves a lingering, almost umami taste in the mouth that will leave even Manu Fieldel from My Kitchen Rules (Where’s the sauce?) gasping for more.
Finally, can I say how versatile this dish is? Not a fan of cauliflower? Use other sturdy veggies like broccoli, eggplant, even zucchini! Love the heat? Add in a dash of cayenne or chili powder! This dish can be made as a starter or a lovely side dish to an Asian inspired main. I personally love this with a tall glass of iced lemon tea. It’s truly addictive, period.