Sprouts’ Honor

Brussels sprouts are a Bay Area winter cook’s best friend.


Thai spiced Brussels sprouts.

Lori Eanes

Who doesn’t love spotting fresh Brussels sprouts at local markets? Those 2-to-3-foot-long, sturdy stalks harvested from August to March, bedazzled with plump, green, walnut-sized edible buds are odd to look at and fun to haul home. Once in the kitchen, snapping off the little sprouts—like a second harvest of wee cabbages (they are of the same family)—ranks among the more satisfying of veggie prep tasks. And the plusses don’t end there.

“They’re a really low-maintenance vegetable,” said Michael Lawrence, sous chef at Oakland’s Portal restaurant and beer garden on Lake Merritt. “They’re hearty, flavorful, and they fry up really well.”

Photo by Lori Eanes

Portal sous chef Michael Lawrence.

They’re also really good for you. Brussels sprouts are packed with vitamins A and C and are a generous source of iron. But their best quality might be their surprising versatility. Though they need little to shine—a quick steam, or a light stroke of oil, a little sea salt, and sauté—Brussels sprouts’ complex, nutty flavor and dense, firmly packed texture can easily shoulder whatever a cook feels like dishing out. Bacon? Sure. But how about garlic, lime, Parmesan, maple, or Sriracha? From sweet to savory to spicy, possibilities abound in combinations even the most suspicious Brussels sprouts doubter might enjoy.

In Portal’s case, that means deep-fried with layers of addictive flavor. One of the most requested items on the menu, the beer garden’s fried Brussels sprouts dish has a Thai-style tang with a kick of spice that goes nicely with beer. For Portal enthusiasts—almost, but not all, of the ingredients are revealed here. We challenge lovers of this dish to try to guess the remaining few.

Portal, 1611 Second Ave., 510-663-7678,  www.PortalOakland.com.


Thai Spiced Brussels Sprouts

(Inspired by Portal’s owner Warren Rector)

1 pound Brussels sprouts

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons chili paste

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 mint leaves, minced


Using a food processor, blend honey, chili paste, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and mint leaves. Set aside. Wash the fresh Brussels sprouts and cut off any stems. Remove any outer leaves that have blemishes. Cut into quarters.

Heat oil in deep fryer or large Dutch oven to 325 to 350 degrees. Add Brussels sprouts until crispy and golden in color, about three to five minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels

In large bowl, immediately toss fried Brussels sprouts with prepared sauce. Plate and serve. Serves two.


Published online on Dec. 9, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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