This is the first of two Manchurian recipes. One is a wet vegetable Manchurian with a slightly different sauce to be served as a main or side. This one is for a baked snack with a slightly different sauce that is thick enough to just coat the florets so they can be served as bites.
CAULIFLOWER: 2/3 cup unbleached white, wheat, or other flour 1/3 cup cornstarch or other starch 3/4 cup or more water 1 teaspoon soy sauce 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or paste (optional) 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1/4 teaspoon paprika (optional) 1 teaspoon safflower or other neutral oil 4 to 4 1/2 cups small cauliflower florets
MANCHURIAN SAUCE: 1 tablespoon safflower or other neutral oil 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 (2-inch) knob of ginger, peeled and finely chopped 1 green or red chile, finely chopped (remove seeds to reduce heat) 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery (optional) 1/4 cup finely chopped red or white onion 1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper 2 tablespoons Asian chile sauce or chile-garlic sauce (sambal oelek), or to taste 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato puree 1 teaspoon rice vinegar 1/4 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons sugar 2 tablespoons water, or more 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for garnish 2 tablespoons chopped scallion, for garnish
1. For the cauliflower: Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except the cauliflower, to make a thick batter. Add a tablespoon or more water if the batter is too thick. Dip the cauliflower florets in the batter to coat, then place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly spray or brush the oil on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick goes through the cauliflower easily. 2. For the Manchurian sauce: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, ginger, and chile, and mix well. Cook until the garlic is golden on some edges, about 2 minutes. Add the celery, onion, and green bell pepper, and cook until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chile sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, vinegar, white pepper, sugar, and water. Mix well and cook until the sauce comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Taste, and add salt if needed. The sauce will be very flavorful. If it looks too thick to pour, add another tablespoon or more of water and mix well. 3. Place the baked cauliflower in a single layer in a bowl or on a plate; pour the sauce over the florets evenly. Garnish with cilantro and scallion, and serve hot.