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Deep-Fried Beets Turn My Frown Upside Down

Before he won Top Chef, before he won a Beard Award, before he got an eponymous restaurant, Austin chef Paul Qui was one of the founders of a host of food trucks—food trailers, actually—throughout the city.

Abutting courtyards behind various bars, the three East Side King locations (and one brick-and-mortar spot) serve up Asian-inspired street snacks.

The dishes, like ramen, steamed buns, and yakitori, transcend the gimmickry that often comes with food truck territory, and have since become Austin institutions.

deep fried golden beets
Photo: Casey Barber

Though I would have loved to do a true trailer crawl throughout Austin during my time there in June, I had to pick and choose my battles.

With a group of fellow food writers, and new, dear friends, we set forth to the original East Side King trailer behind Liberty Bar.

Grabbing a few Shiner Ruby Redbirds and glasses of the finest boxed house wine from the inside bar, we staked our claim on a picnic table in the buzzingly loud, sweaty courtyard and waited for our feast to arrive.

deep fried beets
Photo: Casey Barber

And feast we did on peanut butter curry stuffed into deep-fried buns; crispy, charred Brussels sprouts with a garden’s worth of mint, cilantro, and basil; thai fried chicken over spicy rice; and brilliant deep-fried beets with rich mayonnaise.

So simple. So fresh. So memorable.

I ate so much in Austin and I’m far from done sharing all my finds, but today—as that night, despite a table loaded with baskets of juicy, flavorful bites—the beets are the star of the show.

deep fried golden beets
Photo: Casey Barber

Qui does his with red beets at Liberty Bar, but I can also vouch that deep-fried beets are just as tasty when done with golden beets.

Not only do goldens have a less earthy, more mellow sweetness than their crimson cousins, but they look deceptively like fried potatoes once they’re out of the boiling oil.

I realize it might be a long shot to convince any avowed beet-haters to eat a whole plate—the taste still gives them away a little bit—but my beet-averse husband ate a single cube without a fight or complaint.

deep fried beets
Photo: Casey Barber

It’s a small victory that I’m happy to take.

The sweet, crispy-crusted deep-fried beets lend themselves to contrasting flavors, making them an ideal palette for the spicy, saline seasonings frequently used in Japanese cooking.

The Liberty Bar beets come dusted with salty and citrusy shichimi togarashi and strewn with scallions.

My at-home version adds homemade togarashi salt and a little seaweedy furikake seasoning for no other reason than I’m constantly shaking it on everything.

deep fried beets
Photo: Casey Barber

And because snacks are nothing without a dipping sauce, it’s crucial to have some spicy mayo on the side.

Keep it simple or add all the seasonings your heart desires: the important thing here is the beets. Fire up your deep fryer and don’t look back.

deep fried beets
deep fried beets

Deep-Fried Beets

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Deep-fried beets inspired by Austin's East Side King food trailer at the Liberty Bar will make you look at the vegetable in a whole new way.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beets, scrubbed clean
  • 1 quart vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • kosher salt
  • furikake seasoning
  • shichimi togarashi
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon sriracha or sambal oelek

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Trim the roots and stem ends off the beets and wrap them in aluminum foil
  3. Roast the beets for about 45 minutes to an hour, until tender.
  4. Carefully unwrap the beets and remove their skins by rubbing with a paper towel or peeling them off when the beets are cool enough to handle.
  5. Cut the beets into rough 1-inch cubes.
  6. Clip an oil thermometer to a large, high-sided Dutch oven or stockpot and fill with about 2 inches of oil (you may not need the full quart if frying on the stovetop) or heat the oil in an electric deep fryer to 350 degrees F.
  7. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and an upside-down wire cooling rack as noted in my deep-frying primer.
  8. Add the beet cubes, in batches if necessary, to the hot oil and cook for about 2-3 minutes, just until the beets are starting to brown at the edges.
  9. Remove the beets from the oil with a metal skimmer or spider and cool on the prepared baking sheet.
  10. Raise the heat of the oil to 375 degrees F.
  11. Once the beets have cooled enough to handle, toss them with the rice flour in a large mixing bowl, shaking the beets between your fingers to remove excess flour.
  12. Return the beets to the hot oil and fry until crispy and golden brown, about 4-5 minutes more. 
  13. Skim the beets out of the oil once more and return them to the prepared baking sheet. 
  14. Sprinkle the beets with kosher salt, furikake, and shichimi togarashi.
  15. Whisk the mayonnaise with sriracha or samba oelek, and serve alongside the beets as a dipping sauce.

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13 Comments

  1. I think I’d eat these with joy if someone else cooked them for me, but I love beets, and would have a hard time not just eating them after they’re roasted. Why go to all that work to gild the delicious lily?

    1. Vera, the answer to “why go to all that work” is the same answer for everything I cook and every edible experiment I undertake – because why not? :) Because I can, and I think it’s fun, and then at the end of the day, I get to eat a pile of deep-fried beets dunked in mayo. That’s an awesome reward for my efforts.

  2. oh, yes! what a fantastic idea. I’m interested also in the fact that frying seems to keep them from oxidizing (makes sense) so they still have their pretty golden color! my roasted golden beets always look a little drab.

  3. How about Panko instead of rice flour? I may not be able to find rice flour where I live.

    1. Janet, unfortunately panko won’t stick unless there’s another underlayer like an egg wash to bind it to the food, and these beets aren’t meant to have a thick breaded coating like a traditional bread crumb-coated cutlet. If you can’t find rice flour (the Bob’s Red Mill brand is usually available in the natural/organic section of most major supermarkets), you can always order it through Amazon or use Wondra flour in a pinch—but be sure to shake your beets well if using Wondra to remove it from any thickly dredged areas.

  4. Wow! I am very impressed with. Your prompt response. If I can’t find rice flour locally at Wally World or the health food store, I know where to purchase it. Thank you.

  5. I have never seen yellow beets only purple, it is posible to make this recipe with them instead? Thank you

  6. Hi Casey,

    I tried Paul Qui delicious beets last month during the East Side King pop up in DC and I love them! I have some red beats so I am going to try it tonight! Thanks much for posting the recipe.

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