Sautéed cauliflower with chili sauce
Inspired by Gobi (cauliflower) Manchurian Dry, a popular Indo-Chinese appetizer we sampled at a Bengali restaurant, this lighter version skips the breading and deep frying, but not the flavor.
OK, here is another post that starts by talking about a recent road trip, this time in the Motor City. We saw some stellar art – at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and on the city streets. Detroit is home to a talented, lively graffiti art scene.Skip to next paragraph
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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We also ate some amazing food – some of it definitively American, but most of it brought to the city by immigrants. We’re always happy to eat at Señor Lopez, on the edge of Mexican Town. The food is delicious, authentic, plentiful and cheap, and the service is unfailingly friendly. But what really captured our culinary hearts this visit was a pair of Bengali meals.
One of the Bengali restaurants is in Detroit proper; the other is in Hamtramck, a small city that’s actually inside the city limits of Detroit. First settled by German farmers, Hamtramck saw a huge influx of Polish immigrants in the early 20th century. In 1970, the city’s population was 90 percent Polish.
The past few decades have seen a new wave of immigrants, primarily from the Middle East and South Asia – especially Bangladesh. Buddhist and Islamic temples have joined the churches sprinkled throughout the city.
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And more to the point here, Hamtramck is now sprinkled with a dazzling array of food choices reflecting its cultural richness. The city’s Polish heritage is well represented, of course, with numerous restaurants, groceries and sausage shops. Longtime residents still talk about the fire that temporarily closed Bozek’s Meat and Groceries in 2007 – mainly what they say is how incredible the air smelled. And Fat Tuesday is celebrated as Pączki Day, a day given over to eating pączki, traditional Polish pastries filled with fruit or cream fillings – and to drinking early and often and probably playing hooky from work.
The newer arrivals brought their cooking pots, recipes, and food traditions with them, too. We shopped for late night snacks at an Arab-owned market with beautiful produce, a huge selection of locally made hummus and an impressive olive bar. And we feasted on Bengali pizzas one evening after a day of museums and shopping and hiking around. (That’s another great thing about immigrants: they adopt and adapt ideas of their new home. Like pizza.) One pizza we ordered was topped with spicy curried chicken; the spinach feta pizza tasted like saag paneer. Both featured perfectly charred, crisp, cracker-thin crusts.
This week’s recipe is inspired by an appetizer we shared at a more traditional Bengali restaurant. The original dish is Gobi (cauliflower) Manchurian Dry, best known as a famous Indo-Chinese first course. But it’s popular in Bangladesh, too.