Fried Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

Another recipe from David Chang’s Momofuku.
It is amazingly good. There are so many little touches that make this dish special: homemade fish vinaigrette, fried cilantro leaves, and the puffed rice tossed with shichimi togarashi. Also cauliflower is fantastic fried.
We recently served it as a vegetable course after soup for an Asian influenced dinner. This did entail standing over the stove for a few minutes, but the end result makes it all worth it.
For the fish sauce vinaigrette you need to know your fish sauces; they come in varying degrees of saltiness and funkiness. I can take a fair bit of funk (we frequently use Chinese fermented shrimp paste), but some of the Thai fish sauces are so funky they will overwhelm all the other flavors. Vietnamese brands work best for this recipe.

Serves 4

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons very thinly sliced cilantro stems, plus 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons chopped mint
Grapeseed or other neutral oil, as needed
4 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
1/2 cup puffed rice tossed with 1/2 teaspoon grapeseed oil and 1/2 teaspoon shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice powder)

Combine vinaigrette, cilantro stems, and mint in a bowl.

In a wide skillet fry cauliflower in 1 1/2 inches of oil heated to 375F over medium high heat, about 4-5 minutes, until golden and spotted with bits of brown. Drain on paper towels.
Fry the cilantro leaves, making sure they are dry before dropping them in oil. Make sure they don’t clump together. After 5-10 seconds remove and drain on paper towels.
To toast the puffed rice heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add puffed rice. Toast for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat.
Divide cauliflower into four, top with dressing, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with fried cilantro and puffed rice. Serve.

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