One Hundred and One Mezze: 17. Fried Cauliflower

Today's dish is simply deep fried cauliflower. Deep frying vegetables is a unique method of Levantine cuisine ... I wrote the last sentence and immediately realised that it is not that unique. I just remembered Japanese Tempora Vegetables and Indian Pakoras. I decided to stick with the word unique as we don't dip our vegetables in batter as the Japanese and the Indian variety. We simply slice them, fry them and serve them.

Fried cauliflower can be served as part of "Ma'ali" meal. Ma'ali is Arabic for "fry up". But unlike English fry up ours is totally vegetarian. Different types of different types of fried vegetables served with salads, herbs, tomatoes and Arabic bread. Ma'ali is especially popular in summer months in Syria and a must for family picnics.

In restaurants ma'ali are usually served as part of mezze spread. Although many small family run restaurants in Damascus country side would be more than happy to serve you a full meal of ma'ali with their finest salads.

I like to serve fried cauliflower with a tahini based dipping sauce. Alternatively you can serve it simply with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

Here is my recipe:

Vegetable oil
Tahini 3tbsp
Half a Lemon
Cumin 1tsp
Garlic 2 cloves crushed

Cut the cauliflower into small florets. Heat the vegetable oil and fry the cauliflower till golden brown.

Mix all the sauce ingredients and wisk. The tahini wil become stiff and lighter colour. Add a little water and wisk again. keep ading water till the tahini sauce loosens again. Add enough water to get a runny consistancy.

Serve with fresh Arabic bread.


chow and chatter said...

looks great I made my first baba ganoush and hummus recently you would be proud

Luiz Hara said...

As I was reading your first paragraph I thought - but what about tempura?! But you are right as the Japanese always coat their vegetables in batter before frying... Another yummy recipe, I would never think of using tahini as a sauce for cauliflower but I think it would marry nicely. Thanks.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

Unknown said...

Mmmm Yum!

Maysaloon said...

My absolute favourite! I love it, though it does cause a bit of a stink afterwards :-)

Robin, David, Simon and Leo said...

We order this cauliflower appetizer often, and I always thought it was roasted. Now I know why we've never been able to re-create the results at home in the oven. Thanks for revealing the correct technique. But, you've also shattered my illusion that it's healthy now that I know I'm eating deep-fried cauliflower. A guilty pleasure...

Anonymous said...

Garnabidh bi taratour - yeah, yeah, yeah, I love it! Perfect winter food, I think.


Kano said...

You made me proud indeed. What did you serve with?

My mum makes a sauce to go with the cauliflower with all the ingredients minus the tahini. That one is good too (my wife actually prefers it as it is very sour) but I prefer the tahini one. Works much better for me.

Thanks for stopping by.

I know what you mean mate. Although cauliflower is not the only culpret, Cabbage, beans ... etc have the same after effect.

@Vegetable Matter
You should have known. How many healthy dishes you know taste that good ;)

There is even a more wintry dish with cauliflower, Mufaraket Zahra. I will try to post that recipe soon.

Tiffany said...

This looks delicious. I am an American living on my own in Amman, Jordan. In order to keep costs down and eat healthy I have been trying to cook as much as possible. I bought a nice Arabic cook book and I have been following a couple blogs, including your own, to help me expand my kitchen skills. I have a quick question that you might have answered before but I can't seem to find anything about... What is the difference between vegetable oil and vegetable ghee? Can I substitute ghee when a recipe calls for oil? Thanks!

SHAKUEY201 said...

Karanabeet, simple dish, very tasty. My wife also makes a lot of maqluba with chicken and cauliflower.

Kano said...


Welcome to my blog. I hope my recipes are giving you some delicious, nutritious and cheap dinners.

If you want my advice, don't use vegetable ghee. This stuff is not good at all. The taste is not even close to the butter ghee made from cow's milk. But if you want to know the difference I will explain.

Vegetable ghee is made by hydrogenating vegetable oil. The ghee is semi-solid and richer in flavour compared to the oil. Vegetable ghee is allegedly healthier than butter ghee but I am not sure about that. Some people would even argue the opposite, in fact, due to the hydrogenating process.

Depend on the dish you are cooking you can chose which one to use. here is some general rules:

-For rice dishes, use ghee.
-For deep frying use oil.
-For vegetable dishes use either one.
-For baking, stick to the exact recipe as the smallest change will show in the final product.

I hope this is helpful.

Kano said...


You should invite me around to try the cauliflower maqluba. We don't cook this dish in our household.

Anonymous said...

@kano I don't know Mufaraket Zahra but would love to find out. Please write about it!


Alicia Foodycat said...

The only place I have ever had cauliflower deepfried like that (with no batter) was in a Czech restaurant in Sydney! So delicious.

Omar A. Siag said...

One of the most delicious mizze's to be invented.

i can eat a belly full of those my method is simple

Fry it and put it in some peta bread and simply add tons of ketchup if ud like and bon appetite !!

my mom usually kicks me out of the kitchen if shes making a Palestinian dish called (Ma'looba)
cause the main ingredient is those fried cauliflowers .

Thx Doc :)

Choclette said...

You're right, we don't think of frying vegetables without batter - I wonder why not. And I think the tahini accompaniment would be delicious.

Kano said...

Expect a recipe soon. I am sure you will like it.

Try the tahini sauce with this one. You will love it.

@Omar Siag
We don't cook cauliflower maa'lobeh in Damascus. Just the aubergine version. I want to try to cook your version.

We fry few types of vegetables this way. I will post some others soon.

Taste of Beirut said...

I love this dish! I also appreciated the fact that my kids loved it too when they were little so if only parents who complain their kids don't eat vegetables would make them Levantine dishes...

ihath said...

Here is how I make cauliflower, I think you will like it.

Kano said...

I do like it. My mum some times dip the vegetables in flour before frying them. But the way you made it looks delicious.

Thank you for commenting. I get to discover your great blog.

queen cholesterol said...

I have just cooked this for the second time in two days - it is deLICIOUS!!! Now I want to try all your other recipes.....!!

Kano said...

@queen cholestrol

Welcome to my blog. I am so glad you liked the cauliflower. Please keep me posted about any recipes that you try.

Unknown said...

I thought you had to blanch the cauliflower first, but will try your more direct approach next- Found it difficult to get cauliflower dry after blanching

Unknown said...

I thought you always had to blanch the cauliflower first but will try your more direct approach. It was difficult to get the water out of cauliflower and not have oil splatter everywhere!

Kano said...


I never blanch my cauliflower. The oil shouldn't be too hot otherwise the head will get dark brown while the stem is still firm.

Unknown said...

'Arnabeet is the best with tarator. My parents would always use the cold leftovers, add ketchup, and roll them up w/ pita bread into a sandwich.

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