Fried Calabash Fingers with Tamarind Dipping Sauce
Fried to a golden crunch and served with a sweet and tangy sauce, these gourds are surprisingly delicious.
Yield: serves 4-6
For the Dipping Sauce
- 1 (1") ball tamarind pulp
- 2 árbol or other hot dried red chiles, stemmed
- 4 sprigs cilantro, trimmed and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. sugar
- 1⁄2 tsp. fish sauce
For the Calabash
- 1 1⁄3 cups rice flour
- 1⁄2 cup glutinous rice flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. salt
- Peanut oil
- 1 1⁄2 lb. calabash, trimmed, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3" × 1⁄4" sticks
- For the dipping sauce: Put tamarind into a small bowl, add 2⁄3 cup warm water, and use your fingers to help dissolve some of it. Set aside for 5 minutes, then use your fingers to dissolve more of the softened tamarind. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on any remaining tamarind with the back of a spoon; discard solids.
- Crush chiles with a mortar and pestle and add to bowl with dissolved tamarind. Add cilantro, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, and salt to taste and stir until sugar dissolves. Transfer to a small serving bowl and set aside.
- For the calabash: Whisk rice flour, glutinous rice flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Gradually add 1 cup water, whisking until batter is smooth. Set aside, at room temperature, for 30 minutes.
- Pour oil into a wok or a wide medium pot to a depth of 2" and heat over medium heat until temperature reaches 325° on a candy thermometer. Put about one-third of the calabash into batter and mix until well coated. Transfer battered calabash, one at a time, to hot oil and fry, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until golden and crisp, 12–15 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Repeat battering and frying process with the remaining calabash and batter. Serve hot with dipping sauce.