One of the first things I noticed on landing in Malaysia is that most restaurants consider vegetarians as a minority. Walk into any Mcdonalds and ask for a vegetarian burger (after reiterating that you do not what chicken, beef or fish in your vegetarian burger), you will either get a blank look or if you are lucky then you get the burger bun with some coleslaw in it. The only other option is the ubiquitous "fries" which is definitely vegetarian even if its fried in the meat fryer. But after couple of times, the sight of fries will terrorize you.
Reminds me of good ole Chennai where vegetarians were the market drivers. Where else in the world can you find McAloo Tikki burgers and Paneer Burgers.
True to Chennai tradition, any popular non-vegetarian dish would have its vegetarian sibling. The preferred substitute being gobhi (cauliflower) or baby corn or paneer. Most food chains are aware that you cannot survive the Chennai market without recognizing the vegetarians. Its not just fast food and no it is definitely not a recent phenomenon either. One of the most popular starters in South Indian restaurants is the Chicken 65. Succulent pieces of chicken marinated and deep fried to a beautiful golden hue and garnished with curry leaves, this dish is so famous, it has its own wiki entry. Walk into any restaurant and you will notice that for every chicken 65 ordered, there would be equal numbers ordering Gobhi 65 or aloo 65 or babycorn 65.
Gobhi 65 is a quick dish and for those with an OCD about eating cauliflower in restaurants, its easy to make and enjoy at home. Unlike the cutlets and samosas that require wrapping and rolling, this appetizer is relatively simple - just dip and drop.
Cauliflower florets - 1 cup
Oil to fry
3 T Corn flour
1 T Red chilli powder / paprika
a pinch of Turmeric
1 T ginger garlic paste
1/2 Eno fruit salt or Baking soda (optional but recommended)
Salt to taste
1. Soak the cauliflowers in hot water along with a tablespoon of salt. Remove in 10 minutes to retain the crunch.
2. Mix the cornflour, chilli powder, turmeric, ginger garlic paste along with water to consistency that is thinner than dosa batter.
3. Add the baking soda just before frying.
4.Heat Oil in a kadai. Dip the florets and fry in hot oil in batches.
5. Drain and serve hot with ketchup.
- The dish has to be served hot. It will turn soggy if allowed to stay. You can make the batter in advance and fry it just before serving.
- The same batter can be used for baby corn or capsicum.