I find that when traveling it is fun to not only try out the local food, but also the region's take on more exotic fare. I love seeing (and tasting) how a particular place interprets and adapts a foreign cuisine.
For example, seeking out 'American food' abroad tends to provide an interesting experience. I've sampled pizza in India, country fried chicken in Thailand, McDonald's in Paris, hamburgers in Belgium, chicken cordon bleu in Malaysia (and many others). Trying familiar things in unfamiliar places can be a fun culinary side trip.
I mean, you wouldn't believe how classy the Pizza Hut in Bangalore, India was. Decked out with marble, chandeliers, and crisp linens, they even had a host to seat you! Talk about stepping though the looking glass... and I would love to ramble on about eating abroad but I do need to get to the gobi at some point.
Now, I love Chinese food but when it comes to Chinese-fusion food, American-Chinese has nothing on Indian-Chinese cuisine. It isn't even a fair fight, that stuff is inspired. Who knew the marriage of a little soy with Indian spices could be so delicious?
When I lived in India, I ate a lot of 'Indian' egg rolls, dumplings and my favorite: Gobi Manchurian.
This is like a vegetarian hot wing. Florets of cauliflower, poached, battered and then fried. Tossed in a fiery sauce. As someone who loves spicy food, these satisfy with every sinus clearing bite.
(Mmm deliciously blurry)
One of my favorite gobi experiences was over a decade ago, sitting at a single table outdoor restaurant in Hampi (Southern India). Our adorable and very professional waiter, who was all of seven years old, took our lunch orders (Gobi, Vadai and Thumbs-UP colas, if I remember correctly). He brought us cold bottles of soda and then promptly got on his bike and peddled away. He came back from... somewhere, laden with fresh vegetables for our meal. These were taken back to his mother, our chef, who cooked them up for us.
Now, I might not be able to offer up anything as charming as that experience, but I can at least provide a recipe for good Gobi Manchurian.
Not so Humble Gobi Manchurian:
1 head cauliflower, cut into medium florets
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chick pea flour (or corn flour)
1/3 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped green chili
pinch of salt
this is very hot, consider yourself warned
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1/3 cup finely chopped green onion (white part only)
1 dried red chili chopped
1 inch ginger minced
2 jalapeños seeded and finely chopped
1-2 thai green chilies seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
green onion chopped
Core and cut the cauliflower into medium florets. Bring a pot of water with a little salt to a boil and add the florets, cook for 10 minutes until tender and drain.
In a wok or deep fryer, heat a few inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees. For the batter, combine the flours, chilies, garlic and ginger, adding just enough water to make the mixture smooth. Toss the florets in a bowl with the batter to coat, then sprinkle in an additional 1/4 cup of rice flour and toss gently. Fry the florets in small batches until they are a deep golden brown and crispy, then drain on paper towels.
Meanwhile, saute the garlic in the sesame oil over medium high heat for about 30 seconds, add the green onion, garlic, ginger and chilies and saute for another minute. Add the remaining ingreidents and cook over medium heat for a couple minutes until thick and bubbly.
Add the crispy fried florets to a bowl and pour the sauce over them, tossing to coat. Garnish with green onions and cilantro and serve immediately.