Having grown up on fairly standard American fair as well as a healthy heaping of traditional Polish foods left me at a disadvantage that I wasn’t even aware of until I was 19 years old. During the Spring of 1992, I experienced my first taste of Asian food…it lit my taste buds on fire and started me along the culinary path that leads to who I am today.
We’ll save all the specifics for another day, but let it suffice to say that even take-out Lo Mein can indeed have life altering effects.
“It is very important to preserve traditions and culture. The idea is not to… make sweeping changes but to be careful to do things differently” —Rei Kawakubo
Ever since that moment, I willfully ate any Asian foods shoved into my face—especially if they encompassed a noodle of any kind and a splash of soy sauce. And in typical fashion, one thing lead to another…The shear variety of Asian foods continued these palate inducing frenzies and slowly but surely I began to tell myself that if I loved to eat something that I had to learn how to make it. And so began a long and storied string of years where I spent all of my time and energies learning how to cook Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and a few other Asian cultures’ dishes.
Many of you will recognize that this dish is based on Chả Cá Lã Vọng, which is an unusual Vietnamese dish even in the canon of Vietnamese cooking. Chả Cá Lã Vọng is traditionally made with fish, but that isn’t the most unusual thing about it. That would be the addition of dill. While any number of herbs are used in classic Vietnamese cooking, dill isn’t usually one of them. In fact, Chả Cá Lã Vọng is the only Vietnamese dish that I’ve personally ever had with dill in it.
Vegetarian Chả Cá Lã Vọng is typically made with marinated and fried tofu standing in for the fish, but lately I have been finding that cauliflower is a far better substitute that more people can wrap their heads around.
Turmeric & Ginger Baked Cauliflower with Scallions & Dill
PREP TIME: 1 HOUR ● COOK TIME: 1 HOUR ● SERVES 4
for the baked cauliflower
- 1 large, whole cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon Diaspora Turmeric
- ½ salt
- 1 inch knob of ginger, ground
- ¼ cup olive oil
for the finishing sauce
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek
for the herb salad
- 1 large bunch of fresh basil
- 1 large bunch of fresh mint
- 1 large bunch of fresh cilantro
- 1 head of Bibb lettuce
for the dish
- 16 ounces wide rice noodles
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 large bunch of fresh dill
- 1 bunch of scallions
to make the baked cauliflower
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
- Wash, clean and dry your cauliflower. Do not remove the stem nor any of the leaves, if any.
- Pour the olive oil into a small glass mixing bowl and then add the Diaspora Turmeric, salt and ground ginger. Mix with a fork to thoroughly combine.
- Using a silicon basting brush, apply the mixture to the entirety of the cauliflower.
- Lightly grease an oven safe baking dish and put the cauliflower into it. Wrap loosely with aluminum foil.
- Transfer it to your preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes, then remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
- While the cauliflower is baking, set a large pot of water to boil for your noodles and then move along to the finishing sauce.
to make the finishing sauce
- Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside and make the herb salad.
to make the herb salad
- Coarsely chop the basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce together and toss. Divide the herb salad amongst four large serving bowls and set aside.
You are free to use whichever turmeric you wish in this recipe, but the wild, floral and intoxicating nature of Diaspora Co.’s turmeric will really turn heads. The turmeric I have been using for years smells like bitter dust by comparison, and the flavor is completely incomparable to the Diaspora brand. You’ll notice the difference within minutes of the cauliflower cooking in your oven, trust me.