Deep-Fried Buddhist Goodness in the South

Since Brother Radiance and Sister Xíe Nghiêm demonstrated this simple feast at the Happy Kitchen, Happy Me retreat at the Magnolia Grove Meditation Practice Center, I’ve made this recipe twice with delicious results.

In my home kitchen, I typically avoid deep-frying food because I consume more deep-fried food than I should when dining out. I consider deep-fried food an indulgence, but this dish does bring nutritious vegetables to your deep fryer.

A few alterations to this dish diminish a mindful practice of cooking. Brother Radiance uses a pestle and mortar to grind chopped onion and garlic to add to the batter. Using a pestle and mortar to pulverize fresh aromatics allows for a more meditative motion and mindfulness than powdered dry spices. Japanese Buddhists incorporate this approach to mindful cooking in what they call shōjin ryōri. For a deeper and more disciplined experience, use a pestle and mortar with fresh ingredients when you have the time. For a faster and easier experience, use the garlic and onion powder – particularly on a weeknight – when you need a quick and tasty dinner treat.

For the batter mixture, I first tried this recipe using a pre-packaged batter like the Banana and Shrimp Batter Mix shown in the video. The packaged mix contains corn and potato starch and baking powder which add a fluffy crispness to the fried vegetables. But I also found that using a home mixed batter of all-purpose flour, cornstarch and baking powder produces tasty results. Many cooks may find the latter option easier if these three ingredients already exist in their kitchen cupboard. For best results, use a cast iron skillet for deep-frying and chopsticks for moving your vegetables in and out of the cooking oil.

Deep-Fried Vegetables

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 8 oz box of shiitake or white button mushrooms, cleaned, rinsed and dried
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, sliced into thick rings
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Sriracha for dipping

Directions:

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, cornstarch, onion & garlic powders, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Gradually add water until all ingredients form a thick batter. Adjust water amount until the batter sufficiently clings to the surface of vegetables placed in the bowl.
  2. Heat oil about 1/2 inches deep in an iron skillet to a high heat. Test temperature readiness of oil with a chopstick dipped in batter. The batter should sizzle when submersed in the oil.
  3. Add a few vegetables to the batter in the bowl. Lift vegetables from batter with chop sticks, shake off excess batter and place into the hot oil. Fry vegetables on one side for 3-5 minutes until crispy. Turn to uncooked sides with chopsticks when needed. Remove vegetables to a wire rack or to a plate lined with paper towels to cool. Sprinkle with Kosher salt to taste.
  4. Keep adding battered vegetables to the hot oil to cook in batches. Carefully monitor the temperature of the oil and adjust stove heat for safety. If too hot, the oil will spatter dangerously.
  5. I recommend giving your vegetables a chance to cool for at least 3-4 minutes before eating and eating your vegetables before they become cold (around 12 minutes from removal from the cooking oil). This is a meal or snack you can enjoy eating while cooking. Dip in spicy Sriracha sauce.

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