At Babu Ji near Union Square in New York City, chef Jessi Singh serves what he describes as "newer Indian" food. Menu items include naan pizza featuring garlic, cheese naan, pickled green mango butter and daikon; "unauthentic butter chicken" with tomato, ginger, garlic and fenugreek curry; and skirt steak marinated in ginger-masala yogurt, daikon-cabbage slaw, mint chutney and lime vinaigrette. Singh bills his menu as "clean, healthy, flavorful Indian food."
One of the most popular menu items that has been on the menu since day one is Singh's Colonel Tso's cauliflower. (The dish is also served at restaurant-meets-wine bar Bibi Ji in Santa Barbara, which he co-owns with sommelier Rajat Parr.) This dish is Singh's take on gobi manchurian, a traditional dish reflective of the mixing of Indian and Chinese cuisines. Fried cauliflower gets tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce and then garnished with chives, sesame seeds and nigella seeds. This dish happens to be vegan, but Singh says that people could also substitute chicken or shrimp in place of the cauliflower if they wanted to use an animal protein.
Learn more about Singh's restaurants and get the recipe for this dish below.
Colonel Tso's CauliflowerRecipe Courtesy of Chef Jessi Singh, Babu Ji, New York City
For the Cauliflower:
2 heads cauliflower, cut into florets
Boil the cauliflower in lightly salted water for 3 minutes; strain and lay out on a tray to cool.
For the Sauce:
50 grams grapeseed oil
200 grams garlic-ginger paste (equal parts grated garlic and ginger)
20 grams green Thai chiles, chopped
450 grams tomato puree
80 grams sugar
50 grams water
35 grams soy sauce
20 grams lemon juice
380 grams garlic chile paste
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic-ginger paste and cook for a couple of minutes; add the Thai chiles and continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes more.
2. Add the tomato puree, sugar, water, soy sauce, and lemon juice to the saucepan; fold in well to combine, bring to a quick boil and then down to a low simmer. Fold in the chile paste and continue to simmer for a couple more minutes; keep warm.
For the Batter:
250 grams corn starch
250 grams water
5 grams salt
Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth.
Chopped chives, for serving
Seed mixture, for serving (4 parts sesame seeds to 1 part nigella seeds)
1. Heat a deep fryer to 375˚F.
2. Toss the blanched cauliflower in the batter, draining of any excess. [Note: Give the batter a good whisk after each dipping of the cauliflower as the corn starch likes to settle to the bottom quickly.]
3. Place the coated cauliflower in the deep fryer and fry until crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Put the warm sauce in a big metal bowl and add the fried cauliflower straight out of the fryer; toss until the cauliflower is fully coated in the sauce.
4. Transfer to a plate or bowl, garnish with some chopped chives and seed mixture.
Photo courtesy of Babu Ji.