Unless you’re talking about salads, vegetables seem to be the most unlikely way to start a meal. Yet, particularly in the Asian cuisines, these can actually serve as delicious appetizers, particularly when deep-fried and served with dips that run the gamut from simple vinaigrettes to rich, creamy concoctions.
Any of these full-flavored dishes can be an excellent addition to a restaurant’s roster of appetizers and can also have double functions as either sides or short-order snacks.
A kind of tempura, kakiage literally translates as “fried oysters.” In the modern context, however, this is a misnomer as oysters are rarely used in the dish. It is essentially a mixed vegetable fritter, similar to but much lighter and crisper than the Indian pakora: a combination of julienned vegetables – usually carrots, pumpkin, summer squash, and sweet onions tossed into tempura batter and is fried until crunchy. It is usually served with the classic tempura tare [dip] compounded from mirin, dashi stock, soy sauce, and grated daikon radish.
A popular vegetarian snack in the Philippines features crisp-tender kangkong [water spinach] leaves and stems lightly dipped into a beer-batter, then deep-fried to a crunchy turn. This is usually served with a peppery dip made with cane vinegar, cracked black pepper, salt, and shallots. For a richer and more complex flavor, substitute salt with Knorr Aromat. A variation thereof is sinangag na sinigang where the vegetables normally featured in the tamarind-soured sinigang soup (usually kangkong, daikon radish, and eggplant) are marinated in a tamarind mix, battered, and fried.
Who doesn’t like a crunchy, properly seasoned potato crisp? This variation on a classic snack is more vivid, colorful, and certainly nutritious. They are also among the easiest dishes to make: root vegetables sliced nearly paper-thinly through a mandoline, fried to a crisp, and seasoned with salt or a mixture of salt and other flavorings such as finely chopped herbs, grated Parmesan cheese, or a peppery spice mix. Root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and carrots lend themselves beautifully to be prepared as chips.
This staple of the Indian street food scene is excellent as an appetizer, but may also be a vegetarian main course if and when paired with a salad or a wide selection of sides and chutneys. Aloo samose – potato-stuffed samosas – is the most popular, but samosas can also be filled with crushed and seasoned peas, braised eggplant, as well as curried pumpkin or butternut squash.