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Jan 27, 2012 09:44 AM

Asian style cardoons?

I'm making a dinner next week that's going to have a few Asian flavored preparations of western winter vegetables. So far, I've got a parsnip mash with soy, maple, & black vinegar and Namu restaurant's Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ponzu Fried Garlic, Guanciale, and Bonito Flakes.

There are some excellent looking cardoons at the local market, and I was wondering if they'd lend themselves to any fusiony preparations. Nothing comes to mind--- the only way I've eaten cardoons before is in a gratin or deep fried and sprinkled with lemon juice & parmesan. Any ideas? I'd rather not serve them than force a square peg into a round hole, but if there were good sounding suggestions, I could imagine it being very rewarding to eat them in a new way.

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  1. Cardoons have that great artichoke heart kind of taste, especially when boiled for a long time. I know they're a very fibrous vegetable, but you might want to include them in a separate mash along with potatoes and lemon. Not very Asian inspired (I know), but defintely different. Kinda Asian / Italian / Greek thing going on.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cheese Boy

      Because you need to do so much prep work with cardoons, I'd imagine their uniqueness getting lost in a mash. I could probably achieve a similar flavored mash with sunchokes or artichoke hearts though.

    2. I spent the day yesterday mulling this one over. Prep your cardoons ("Wash cardoons; remove and discard outer stalks. Trim thorns and stringy fibers. Cut cardoons into 2" pieces; place in a pot of salted water with lemon juice. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until cardoons are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain, cool, and dry with paper towels." - Instructions quoted from Saveur magazine.

      Prepare a tempura batter with rice flour, and deep fry the cardoons. Mix up a dipping sauce of fish sauce, minced garlic, grated ginger, rice vinegar and a little sugar.

      To be honest, I'd do a test run on the flavor of the deep fried cardoon in the dipping sauce, just to be sure it works. I used fish sauce as a riff on a bagna cauda with anchovies and garlic, which is a classic dip for deep fried artichokes and cardoons.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        I love it! Your idea kind of reminds me of David Chang's brussels sprouts recipe, which is fantastic. Flavorwise, yours substitutes the rice flour for the crispy rice and the herbaceousness of the cardoon for the mint and cilantro.

        I'll be cooking this in two weeks (I initially misread my calendar), and will let you know how it went. If the flavors don't work, we can always dip the cardoon tempura in the extra ponzu sauce from another dish.

        Oh, and there are lots of tempura batter tips to help me at:

      2. Cook as directed above by "bushwickgirl" Serve cold or room temp with Szechwan "fish fragrant sauce" or "strange flavor sauce"

        1. Thanks for all the suggestions.

          The trimming, soaking, boiling, etc. took so long that I got nervous about doing tempura. I had a complex enough meal already, so I decided to do a simpler preparation instead. I dipped the boiled and cooled cardoons in rice flour, eggwash, and then panko and deep fried them. I really liked the flavor of the outside, especially in combination with a fish sauce dip, but the flavor of the cardoons was pretty much lost! Eggplant has a strong enough flavor that I'd imagine it flourishing with a similar preparation.

          I say this every year, but I think I'm going to call it quits on cardoons... they're a pain in the butt, and it's easier and more rewarding to play with sunchokes and artichokes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: hyperbowler

            Ah, ok, glad you let us know what you did. I do believe that cardoons are a vegetable that's best left to Mediterranean cuisine; perhaps Asian sauces are a bit overwhelming; cardoons have a rather delicate flavor. I'm not one to dissuade anyone from trying something new, though. The fun part is that you did it, kudos to you for the attempt. How was your dinner received over all?

            As for the pain in the butt prep part, I have to agree. When I see cardoons in the produce isle, I look the other way.

            Eggplant, yes, does flourish and is well known to Asian cuisine. Next time, go that route, with a twist.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              The rest of the recipes turned out well, with only one other disappointment. I agree with you that experimenting is best done before the day of a dinner, and more generally, that one should never incorporate too many untested recipes into a meal :-)

              On the upshot, Namu's brussels sprouts were amazing:


              The ponzu and soy dashi parts of the recipe confused me, so I used Mark Bittman's dashi and ponzu (meyer lemon & lime instead of yuzu) recipes. I also added some soy and rice wine vinegar to taste and skipped the fried garlic. To still a wonderful effect, I remade the recipe a few nights later, skipping the guanciale and dashi, and adding two prosciutto slices mid-way through cooking and some water with the ponzu.

              Incidentally, a friend of mine made a delicious cardoon gratin yesterday. Comparing our two recipes, I'd recommend against soaking cardoons before boiling them. Soaking is only mentioned in a minority of recipes, and I suspect that the soaking is what killed the flavor from my dish!