Fried Cauliflower with Thai Chile Jam

Fried Cauliflower with Thai Chile Jam

Fried Cauliflower

This cauliflower is sweet, tangy, and fiery and that’s why it’s so hard to stop eating. It’s great over rice as a meal, but you could a so consider set- ting out a bowl of the cauliflower as a serve-yourself appetizer. For the best-textured cauliflower, cut your florets into 1½-inch piece . If they’re larger, they remain a little firm after frying and are harder to eat.

Thai Chile Jam

Culinary Vegetable Institute Executive Chef Jamie Simpson first tasted a version of the Thai sauce nam prik pao while cooking at the Charleston Place Hotel (now Belmond Charleston Place). A fellow chef-friend, who once worked at Charleston’s beloved Thai restaurant, Basil, made the sauce for staff meal, and they ate it on room-service chicken fingers. Since then, the balance of sweetness, fieriness, and delicious pungency has haunted Jamie. He tried to replicate it for years but wasn’t happy

with the results until the CVI grew the right peppers. This is one of our pantry staples brought out frequently for staff meals. Toast, vegetables, rice, hamburgers—you name it; this hot chile jam will elevate it. Note: The Thai chiles are HOT, so it’s important you wear gloves when seeding them. Also, this recipe makes a lot of jam, but it lasts indefinitely in the fridge. Or you can give a few jars away as gifts.


  • 1 (2-pound, or 900 g) head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (140 g) fine Asian rice flour
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil, such as canola, for frying
  • ½ cup (120 g) Thai Chile Jam (below)
  • Toasted benne (heirloom sesame seeds) or white sesame seeds and cilantro leaves or blooms, for garnish
  • Hot steamed rice, for serving

Thai Chile Jam

  • 4 ounces (120 g) fresh red Thai chiles, seeded
  • 6 ancho chiles, seeded
  • 10 ounces (280 g) shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large head of garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2⁄3 cup (160 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2½ cups (500 g) sugar
  • ž cup (180 ml) fish sauce
  • ½ cup (120 ml) unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt


  1. Set the cauliflower florets in a bowl of ice water.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours and salt. Without draining the ice water, use a slotted spoon to transfer the cauliflower florets to the flour mixture and toss, then tap off the excess. Return the cauliflower to the water, then return it to the flour again a d toss again. Spread out the cauliflower to dry on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a platter.
  3. Set up a rack atop a b king sheet or line the sheet with paper towels and position near the stovetop. In a deep fryer or a heavy pot, heat 1 inch of the oil to 365° F. Add enough florets so they float in a single layer without touching a d fry the cauliflower, moving the florets around occasionally, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the rack and let cool for 1 minute. Repeat until all the cauliflower is fried
  4. In a large serving bowl, toss the fried cauliflower with the chile jam until evenly coated. Garnish with benne seeds and cilantro and serve with steamed rice while still hot.

FOR THE Thai Chile Jam

  1. In a food processor, process the chiles, shallots, and garlic to a coarse paste. Carefully open the processor to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. (Caution: The fumes can burn your eyes.)
  2. In a wide 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium- high heat. Add the chile paste from the processor and fry, stirring constantly, until the color darkens and the ingredients start to caramelize, about 10 minutes. (Reduce the heat if the paste is darkening too fast.) Add the sugar, and continue to fry; the sauce will turn deep red, almost black, as it reduces, about 10 minutes longer. Add the fish sauce, vinegar, and salt. Continue to heat until the sauce is reduced to an oily paste, stirring constantly, about 15 minutes.
  3. Spoon the jam into sanitized wide-mouth jars while the jam is still hot. Seal the jars and let cool on a rack. A thin layer of oil will rise to the surface as the jam cools. Store, refrigerated, for at least 1 year.

From The Chef's Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables—with Recipes by Farmer Lee Jones; with Kristin Donnelly, published on 4/20/2021 by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by The Chef’s Garden, Inc.

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