My only real grief with gobi manchurian is that it’s fried. Not that I won’t eat it, it’s quite the opposite actually—I love it so much that I’ll eat it, and I’ll want to eat it every time I think about it. Oven-baking makes these a healthier option not to mention far easier and hassle-free than plunging things in hot oil. And if you’re anything like me and have a ridiculously high propensity for kitchen mishaps, this right here is your golden ticket.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? I kept the flavours of the batter and the coating sauce as authentic as possible—ketchup, chilli powder, soy, ginger, and garlic. I took the liberty to throw in a few sesame seeds but feel free to leave them out.

The thing about fried foods that have a coating sauce is that they are first batter-fried to get them crispy, and then tossed in a wok with the sauce. This combination of the batter coating with the sticky glazed sauce is what makes this dish so appealing. You’d typically achieve this in a wok and with a vat of oil, but the oven does a good enough job for a fraction of the effort.

A quick note about getting it crispy: I have made sure to measure and write out the proportions of the batter to the best of my ability, but either way, here’s something to pay attention to: after you mix the batter, add the florets to the bowl and toss to coat. Once they are coated, don’t tip it directly onto the baking tray. Place each floret individually onto the tray. A bit of pooling around each floret is perfect. This step might seem unnecessary, but I learnt this the hard way – if you were to just pour the whole thing out, the extra batter on the tray, upon baking, forms a leathery layer at the bottom. We don’t want this.

Another thing to watch out for: let the coating sauce get really thick and syrupy (keep an eye on it constantly and whisk so it doesn’t burn). If it’s too runny, it’ll make the cauliflower soggy. All this information may sound like it’s really difficult to get right, but I’m certain it will flow intuitively. I just wanted to give you a few pointers to help you along.

OVEN-BAKED GOBI MANCHURIAN

Servings: 3 people

Ingredients

  • 500 grams cauliflower florets
  • Sesame seeds, to serve
  • Spring onion tops, to serve (optional)

Batter:

  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 5 tbsp corn flour
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp water

Coating Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 2 garlic cloves + ½” piece of ginger (or 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp oil

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  • Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets.
  • Make the batter: add all the ingredients listed under ‘batter’ to a bowl and whisk to remove any lumps. You want it to be thick enough to coat the cauliflower but not too thick that it becomes stodgy. This ratio was perfect for me but you may need to adjust the amount of water/flour to achieve this.
  • Add the cauliflower florets to the batter and toss them with your hands to coat evenly. Place the coated florets onto a baking tray. Don’t tip them directly onto the tray. Place each one individually on the tray. (Note: if there is any residual batter left behind in the bowl after you lay them out, don’t pour it over them. Discard this. You only want what it coats.) Bake for 20 mins.
  • Whilst the cauliflower bakes, make the sauce: place all the ingredients listed under ‘coating sauce’ (except the oil) in a saucepan.
  • If using ginger-garlic paste, use as is. If not, peel and mince the ginger and garlic into the saucepan.
  • Cook over a medium heat for about 6-9 mins until it gets thick and syrupy. Keep an eye on it and whisk frequently to make sure nothing burns. Add more water if it gets too thick. You’re looking for the consistency of thick honey. Once the sauce is done, take off the heat. Add the oil and whisk. Set aside.
  • Once the cauliflower is out of the oven, add to a bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss to coat all the pieces evenly.
  • Place the cauliflower back on the same baking tray and bake for a further 15-20 mins. Sprinkle over sesame seeds and chopped spring onions and serve immediately.

Notes

I used regular soy (neither light nor dark). If using dark soy, halve the quantity.

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