Junoon is one of the most popular Indian restaurants among gourmand New Yorkers. The name, which means passion, interprets Indian cuisine with a modern spin. The space is large and comfortable, unusual for New York City. And the food: Well, it inspires passion.
While many American home cooks are wary of taking on Indian cuisine without the benefit of a class or an expert friend, here’s one of Junoon’s dishes that’s easy to make. The Indian name is Lahsooni Gobi, but Crispy Fried Cauliflower sounds so much more tempting.
We love cauliflower in all its forms, plain and fancy. But here, lightly battered and tossed in a tomato garlic sauce, this hearty appetizer or side will make even those who don’t typically crave cauliflower want more.
No eggs are used in the batter because in India, eggs are not part of a vegetarian diet (this recipe is actually vegan). This recipe is also gluten-free. Chef Vikas Khanna notes, “I use rice flour here, not just for its superior crisping quality but also for people who are gluten sensitive. It’s a warm and homey dish and can easily be adjusted in terms of heat and garlic to suit anyone’s palate.”
Junoon’s delicious Crispy Fried Cauliflower. Photo courtesy Worleygig.
RECIPE: LAHSOONI GOBI, CRISPY CAULIFLOWER
Ingredients For 4 Servings
1 medium sized head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
Vegetable oil for frying, plus 2 tablespoons to make the sauce
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
½ cup rice flour
½ cup cold water
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or more to taste
¼ cup tomato purée
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Two pinches salt
Two pinches sugar
Two pinches ketjiap spice (recipe below)
Garnish: 2 sprigs cilantro
Turn an everyday cauliflower into something special. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.
1. SPRINKLE 2 teaspoons of sea salt evenly over the cauliflower and let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. PREHEAT the oil to 350°F: Heat two tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and ginger, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
3. ADD the tomato purée, water, cayenne pepper, sugar, salt and ketjiap spice; mix well with a whisk until combined. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary just before serving.
4. PREPARE the batter by quickly blending the rice flour and water together in a large bowl. Coat the florets in the batter by placing all of the florets in the bowl. Toss gently and then carefully drop the florets into the hot oil. Fry the cauliflower until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
5. BRING the sauce to a simmer over medium heat and then add the cauliflower to the pan. Stir and toss gently to coat the cauliflower with the sauce until well combined. Serve the cauliflower in a bowl garnished with cilantro.
KETJIAP SPICE MIX
Ketijap is a traditional Indonesian spice mix used for the many different sauces that are loosely called cat-siop and ketjiap (and other spellings*). A pinch or two livens up soups and sauces. You can keep the spice tightly covered in a cool, dark place for up to two months.
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon mace flakes†
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, preferably tellicherry
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
1. LIGHTLY TOAST the whole spices in a small heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat for about one minute.
2. COOL, then grind to a fine powder with the cinnamon in a spice grinder.
*Yes, this is the origin of our word catsup/ketchup, although our familiar tomato ketchup was a New World invention. Here’s the history of ketchup.
†It can be difficult to find mace flakes, also called mace blades, in consumer markets. Use ground mace instead.