So what was the difference? Was it simply my mom’s touch that made cauliflower so delicious?
Cauliflower sautéed with potatoes. Kauli, was my favorite vegetable growing up in Nepal. It’s basically a North Indian version of gobi (cauliflower) aloo (potatoes).
The recipe is easy. Stir fry cut potatoes in oil with turmeric and cumin powder, maybe add a stick of cinnamon to add savory flavors.Add cauliflower florets and leave it until cooked. I tried to recreate my mom’s Kauli in the United States for many years without much success. Getting the spices right was easy. Just use what mom packed. But the texture and flavor were always off. The floret came out overcooked mushy or under-cooked crunchy, and always very watery.
Some people thought cauliflower needed a lot of oil, but my mom never put too much oil. Others believed the cultivar of cauliflower was different. I tried different cauliflowers from many grocers including ethnic stores, farms – but they didn’t really bring me closer to my mom’s Kauli. Many other hypothesis included difference in cooking utensils, cooking on gas stovetop instead of electric, types of salt used, etc.
Just before hurricane Sandy, I purchased a big beautiful crown of a cauliflower from a local farmers market. But even with my mom giving me directions on Skype, I failed to perfect her recipe. Half of the head was still unused. During that weekend, I lost power and cauliflower stayed outside instead of the cool vegetable chest inside my refrigerator. When the power came back on, I cooked it and surprisingly it tasted closer to my mom’s Kauli.
The difference in cauliflower was not the cooking methods, but how it cauliflowers are stored and sold. In Nepal and India, vegetable vendors don’t use refrigeration. As a result cauliflowers stay outside, slowly evaporating excessive moisture. Loss of moisture may make cauliflower pale, but it concentrate the flavors and makes it less watery.
Lesson learned. I can cook my mom’s cauliflower; I just need to let mother nature do her job sometimes.
Posted in: Cooking |