Gobi Manchurian is an Indian and Chinese fusion dish made with battered and fried cauliflower that is a little sweet, sour, spicy, and loaded with flavor. When looking at the recipe you might get nervous because there are a lot of ingredients and a few different steps. I promise though, it’s worth it and it really doesn’t take long to make. It’s hands down one of my favorite meals and I’d eat it everyday if I could.
Before jumping into the recipe you should understand the history of the dish and understand a little bit about the process. I encourage you to not just “jump to recipe” and actually read some of this, because it helps to better understand the flavors and the why behind the steps.Jump to Recipe
Manchurian, as the term is used in relation to cooking, is the process of rough chopping ingredients (vegetable or meat), deep frying them, and then sautéing in a sauce that acts as a glaze. The cooking term has little to do with Manchurian culture in China. Traditional Manchu cuisine is centered on what could be grown or hunted in the varying climate of this northeastern region of China. Soy beans, millet, wheat, peas, and corn. Wild game but predominately pig. Fermented foods that would store well in the cold winters. The term “Manchurian” for this food comes from Chinese restaurants operating in India and blending cooking techniques with Chinese ingredients.
Gobi is Hindi which means cauliflower. This dish doesn’t have much Indian cuisine influence in terms of spices, but the process of battering and frying is more Indian than Chinese as well as the initial cooking of onion, garlic, and ginger. The style of Manchurian cooking is said to have been invented by Nelson Wang, a cook at the Cricket Club in Mumbai, in 1975. The story goes that a customer asked him to create a new recipe that was different from anything on the menu. Wang started with the common base of an Indian gravy with heating onion, garlic, ginger, chilies, and then tomato. Instead of using standard spices like cumin or garam masala he used soy sauce and vinegar. The dish was a hit and is now popular all over the world.
Want to read more? Check out these great resources!
- The Indian Hakka Story
- Chinese Food in India
- How Indian Chinese Food Became India’s Favorite Cuisine
- 10 Indian-Chinese Dishes That are Only Found in India
- Why Chinese cuisine is a comfort food in India
Is my dish that different than other ones you’ll find online? Probably not, but I’ve been making it for a while now and these measurements are what I prefer best. There are some that I’ve seen that try to simplify the sauce, and I’ve tried them, and I didn’t like them. Some recipes use ketchup which makes the dish taste weird in my opinion. Some skip the vinegar and add too much soy sauce. A lot of recipes over simplify the process. It really doesn’t take long to make the whole dish, and if you’re taking the time to make it why would you want to skimp on time just to make something that’s not good. Give it time and make something truly delicious.
The goal is really to have a balance of flavors so that none really stand out more than another. It’s a merge of flavors and you shouldn’t really be able to tell what’s in it. There’s nothing else like Gobi Manchurian, and when made well it’s truly incredible.
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Some tips on cooking Gobi Manchurian
You really need to fry the cauliflower. Before I say anything else, I need to state that. I do give instructions in the recipe notes to bake or air-fry, but it really just isn’t as good. Frying makes the cauliflower crispy and the batter sticks the best to it and doesn’t fall apart in the sauce.
My first step is always to prep the cauliflower and parboil them. This short boil makes the cauliflower softer, but it’s not fully cooked. This step makes the vegetable inside the cooked batter shell all buttery and soft and not crunchy. It also helps get rid of some of the sulfur flavor natural in cauliflower. You boil them for a few minutes then drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Dust with a little flour or corn starch which gives the batter something to cling to.
In my recipe directions I have three separate steps. I do that so that I don’t have to fumble around and cook too many things at once. I’ve found it makes it a lot easier and less chance for disaster. I prep the cauliflower and let it sit while I make the sauce. I finish the sauce and just take it off the heat or keep it on as low as possible while I fry the cauliflower. This also gives you the opportunity to pause and come back to cooking if something comes up. I’ve often made the sauce in advance or decided I needed a nap before frying. I know a long recipe is a faux pas in recipe writing, because it turns people off from making it. However, I really hope you’ll try it out as written because it truly is incredible. And, honestly, it really doesn’t even take as long as you might think.
The spice level is up to you. In my ingredient list I use generic chili powder but offer the option to use Szechuan powder. I know from personal experience that most Westerners prefer a less heated dish in terms of spice. Also, Szechuan powder can be hard to find if you don’t have an Indian or Chinese grocery store nearby. Szechuan isn’t the same as Americanized “red pepper” flakes in both flavor and color. It’s a warm heat with a bit of bite but not hot like habanero. It’s also very red which makes the dish more vibrant in color. If you have an Indian grocery it might just be listed as Kashmiri pepper or just ground Red Pepper.
Last tip. Serve it with either basmati or jasmine rice. Don’t go through all the hassle of making this dish just to serve it with a random brown rice, minute rice, or some other quick rice. Basmati rice is very aromatic and the grains are individual. It’s the most common in popularized Indian cuisine. Jasmine rice sticks together a bit more, is softer than basmati, and has more flavor than aroma. Both are delicious and great as a side for this recipe.
- Deep fryer If available
Cauliflower and Batter
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 6 cups of florets)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (or Szechuan powder)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup water (Start with 1/2 cup and add more )
- Oil for frying
Gobi Manchurian Sauce
- 1 tablespoon neutral flavor oil (vegetable, avocado, etc. )
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1/2 cup chopped red peppers (or green)
- 4 ounces diced green chilies (La Preferida is one I like)
- 3 tablespoons Sriracha (can omit)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (or Szechuan powder)
- 1/4 cup water (or more as needed)
Step 1: Prep the Cauliflower
- Bring 8 cups of water to a boil.
- While the water is heating, cut the cauliflower into small florets. Think bite sized about 1" tall. Boil the cauliflower for 5 minutes only. Drain, rinse under cold water, and then sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of flour on to help soak up excess liquid. Set aside.
Step 2: Make the Sauce
- In a large non-stick frying pan or wok, sauce the onion, garlic, ginger, peppers, and green chilies with the oil. The onion should be translucent rather than browned. About 5 minutes.
- Stir in the sriracha (if using), tomato paste, maple syrup, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili powder. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the water, stir, and bring to a light simmer. It should be a thick but liquid sauce more like a glaze. Add more water as needed. Keep on low heat and go on to the next step.
Step 3: Cook the Cauliflower
- In a mixing bowl stir together the 1/2 cup flower, corn starch, chili powder, black pepper, salt, and water. Start with 1/2 cup water and add more as needed to make a thin batter. It should be similar to a thin pancake batter.
- Bring 2-3" of oil to heat, around 370°F. You can use a small sauce pan, but make sure your pan is sturdy and has high enough walls so oil doesn't spill while you're cooking.
- Toss some of the cauliflower into the batter, turn to coat, carefully drop into the heated oil. The amount that you fry per batch depends on the size of your pot. Fry until crispy and lightly golden, about 3-5 minutes per batch. Transfer the cooked cauliflower directly to the sauce but don't stir it in. Repeat until all cauliflower is cooked.
- Gently fold the sauce over the cauliflower until it is completely glazed and coated. Serve with fluffy basmati or jasmine rice and top with green onion and/or chopped cilantro.
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