Simple and Delicious Gobi Sabzi: Indian Spiced Cauliflower

indian spiced cauliflower, fried cauliflower, cauliflower sabziThere are certain foods that have the fascinating ability to transport me to another place and time.  Sometimes it’s the taste of a fragrant, freshly baked slice of bread.  One bite and I’m nine years old, back in my grandmother’s farm kitchen giggling with my cousins.  Oh how I miss my cousins…

Other times it’s one sip of a cheap keg beer at a friend’s wedding causing me to remember my college days and all the (embarrassingly fun) moments with long-lost friends whom I’ll probably never cross paths with again (even you, crazy Toby!).

And then there is is this.  

indian cauliflower, spiced cauliflower, cauliflower in mustard oil

Just one smell of this simple and quick cauliflower preparation and I’m instantaneously transported back to India.  And I’ve got to say, with the horrible winter we’ve been having here in Minnesota, I would definitely LOVE to be in India right about now! -50 degree F windchills do not make me a happy lady! 

Maa's karahi, heating up to make something fabulous!

Maa’s karahi, heating up to make something fabulous!

My mother-in-law is a wonderful cook and loves to show her love through food.  On our last trip to India, she would ask Baba to pick up cauliflower from the market so that she could make her sons a dish very similar to my version of gobi sabzi.

Maa and her boys--and one very naughty (but so cute!) neighbor kid

Maa and her boys–Pinaki, Piyush, Prithvish & Prathim–and one very naughty (but so cute!) neighbor kid

Piyush and Prithvish would gobble it up so quickly, anyone else would be lucky to get a taste.

Although this isn’t Maa’s exact recipe, it’s close. And don’t let its simplicity fool you.  After all, the most loved food is almost always the least complicated…and trust me, this stuff is loved!

I started the dish by tossing some a lot of mustard oil into a pan.

Available at most Indian grocers

Available at most Indian grocers

I used quite a bit more oil than I would regularly because I wanted the mustard flavor to really shine.  It’s also how it’s done in India, and I was craving the real thing, if you know what I mean.  None of this “skimp on the oil, save on the calories” silliness.  Not this time.

Then I tossed a few curry leaves, a couple dried chilies and some panch phoran into the oil.

bengali cookingPanch Phoran is a mixture of 5 seeds common in Bengali cooking.  It consists of mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella/kalonji (onion) seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds all in equal parts. It is typically used whole and is rarely used as a ground spice.

my jar of panch phoran

my jar of panch phoran

Panch Phoran is lovely tempered in mustard oil (another Bengali staple!) and is often used in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.  Not to mention (ok, I’m mentioning it…), it also  helps to make a darn awesome mango-date chutney (recipe coming soon)!

Think of it as the “Bengali Garam Masala.”

After the panch phoran began to crackle and pop in the oil, I added the chopped cauliflower

chopped cauliflower

and stirred it well so that all the cauliflower was coated with the mustard oil.

cooking gobi in mustard oil

Then I just sort of left it alone to do it’s thing, stirring whenever I thought of it or when I noticed the pieces beginning to brown and slightly soften.  This took a good 15 to 20 minutes.

gobi fry

I finished off the dish with a good dose of salt (again, more than usual) and some ground black pepper.  I also threw a handful of chopped coriander leaves into the mix, for good measure.

This simple sabzi (Indian vegetable dish) is something I’ve really been looking forward to sharing with you all.  I hope you give it a try, and love it as much as we do!

Before I share the recipe, I would love to know, dear readers, what foods, if any, take you back in time?  Please share with me in the comments, I love to hear from you all and hear about your experiences!

Gobi Sabzi: Indian Spiced Cauliflower Recipe

Serves 4

Be sure not to overcook this dish.  The cauliflower should be a little browned and just slightly softened. 


  • 1 head of cauliflower (if using Indian cauliflower–which are quite small–use 2 heads), cut into small pieces
  • 4 tbsp. mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp. panch phoran (may substitute garam masala–but the taste will be totally different)
  • 4-5 curry leaves (optional, but recommended)
  • 2 dry red chilies
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder (Adjust to suit your tastes.  Sometimes less is more!)
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
  • small pinch of sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper powder, to taste
  • chopped coriander (cilantro), for garnish


  • Add 4 tbsp. mustard oil to a heavy-bottomed pan or karahi over medium-high heat.  Toss in 1/2 tsp. panch phoran, curry leaves and dry red chilies.  Once the seeds begin to pop and crackle, tip in the cauliflower pieces. Stir until all the cauliflower is coated in oil.
  • Add the chili powder and turmeric to the pan.  Stir to combine.
  • Cook the cauliflower, stirring occasionally, until it softens and begins to turn a little brown, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Toss in a pinch of sugar and add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!

cauliflower fry, indian fried cauliflower


10 thoughts on “Simple and Delicious Gobi Sabzi: Indian Spiced Cauliflower

  1. Clark

    Sounds great, will have to try it. I love aloo gobi. But I have problems finding fresh curry leaves here in California. Where do you find it?

  2. liztiptopshape

    When I was growing up my absolute favorite meal was this chicken and broccoli with cream of chicken soup as a sauce served for puff pastry shells. We had it fairly often, and I would always eat the pastry shell layer by layer, dipping it in the cream of chicken soup. Definitely a delicious and memory-filled meal!!!

    This cauliflower looks amazing!! I was wondering – was it hard to learn how to make a lot of the traditional Indian dishes? It sounds like you didn’t grow up eating that way, so I’d imagine the spices and flavor profiles were pretty unfamiliar to you when you started.

  3. thesophisticatedladies

    Looks great!!!! We make a much more pared down version of it without the mustard oil (neither of us are big fans), but yours sounds so tasty!! Quick question – do you do equal parts of the seeds to make your panch phoran? I think I have all 5 types of seeds in my cupboard, so could easily mix some up!

  4. Ngan R.

    A steaming bowl of pho always brings me back to my mom’s kitchen and the smells, sights and sounds of all my brothers and sisters gathering around the table. I love cauliflower and am excited to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing!


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