With vegetables, sometimes simple is better. In the case of the broccoli dish at Ramen Hood, the vegan ramen stall at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, simple means frying broccoli florets, dousing them with a pungent sauce and putting them in a bowl – then watching as the dish sells out, again and again, even if you change your restaurant.
Let us backtrack. When chef Ilan Hall’s restaurant the Gorbals was still open, in the nearby Alexandria Hotel, he was looking for a vegetable dish that was “outside the box.” So he’d been grilling broccoli stems, kind of like shaved asparagus, and had all these extra florets. One day he threw them in the fryer. Then he made a sauce of malt vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and chile flakes, which he spooned over the results, with some scallions. Ta-da.
“It was a little bit of a joke,” said Hall, describing the initial impulse as a riff on a David Chang recipe. “But then it sold out.” Hall closed the Gorbals, then opened Ramen Hood with executive chef Rahul Khopkar, where the dish not only returned but is one of the most popular on the menu there too.
Take a bite of the broccoli – crisp as tempura, the edges caramelized yet still the essence of the bright vegetable, loaded with the zingy sauce – and you'll see why people keep ordering it. If you’re at the ramen counter, you'll probably order another one. If you’re at home, you can just double the recipe. You’re welcome.
Ramen Hood’s Fried Broccoli
1/2 cup malt vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes, more to taste
Oil for frying
1 pound broccoli, cut into florets (save the stems for another use)
About 1/4 cup sauce, more if desired
Thinly sliced green onion, for garnish
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and chile flakes and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. This makes about 3/4 cup sauce, more than you’ll need. The rest will keep for up to 2 weeks, refrigerated.
Fill a large pot with enough oil to come up about 4 inches and heat the oil until it reaches 375 degrees. Fry the broccoli in small batches until the pieces are a light brown color, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain the pieces well, and repeat until all of the broccoli is fried.
Place the broccoli in a bowl and sprinkle the sauce over it, tossing the broccoli to coat. Drain the pieces and place on a platter, garnishing with the green onion. Serve immediately.
Yield: 2 to 4 servings.