Rifts on Cauliflower
Cauliflower (กะหล่ำดอก) is a vegetable. It looks flower-esque, (hence the name) and is in fact an immature flower stalk head of the cabbage family.
I used to think cauliflower looked like brains. According to Chinese folk medical lore, eating walnuts makes you smarter, because walnuts look like brains. Think about it: the human brain has two lobes, a walnut has four lobes. More lobes = more brains. I wondered if eating cauliflower would also make me smarter.
Then there’s a variety of cauliflower called romanesco, or Roman broccoli. Romanesco would be Spock, if regular cauliflower was Captain Kirk. Romanesco looks like a higher order of intelligence: its florets of form graduated clusters looking like the intricate classical Thai dancer headdresses ชฎา (chada). The pointy-headed หัว แหลม shape is actually governed by the mathematical Fibonacci sequence.
The first person who explained the Fibonacci series to me was Kevin-Middle-Initial-L. He was one of the smartest guys in our high school class, and no surprise, was very interested in mathematics and computers.
The Fibonacci Sequence is the series of numbers, where the next number is the sum of the previous two numbers, i.e. 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 and so on. If you form a series of squares, with the each side the size of the number in the Fibonacci series, it forms a spiral. (It’s the same concept with nautilus shells). So each cluster in a head of romanesco is actually a very tiny spiral, increasing proportionally in a very strict mathematical pattern.
I was not much of a maths person (maybe I should have eaten more cauliflower, romanesco or walnuts). But the Fibonacci series stuck in my head because it is mathematics at its most visually arresting.
When I see romanescos now, I’m reminded of Kevin. (And then I wonder what the ‘L’ stood for, since he adamantly refused to tell me what his middle name was. I speculated it was something slightly ludicrous like Ludwig or Lancelot. But it would have been most fitting if it were Leonardo.)
When dining out, cauliflower isn’t usually listed on menus the way, say, Chinese broccoli is. The main exception is in Indian restaurants, where you can often find Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower). Sometimes, you’ll even come across Gobi Manchurian, which is an Indian spin on Chinese cuisine.
Gobi Manchurian is cauliflower florets encased in a flour-based batter and fried. Then they are cooked to coat in a sauce of chilis, garlic, ginger, green onion, pepper, soy sauce and vinegar for a spicy and piquant dish.
(Gobi is the Indian word for cauliflower, not a reference to the Gobi desert. The dish was never traditional in Heilongjiang or Liaoning!)
Cooking at home, I use cauliflower interchangeably with broccoli for stir-fries. But I add some rehydrated dried shrimp or chopped bits of bacon/smoked ham/Chinese sausage. They add bursts of flavors, which act as a foil to the cauliflower’s understated blandness.
You could also boil or steam cauliflower until it’s very soft and puree it into soup. Add some curry powder or minced ginger for flavor, and add cream or coconut milk for a richer mouth-feel.