They're a new look at an old vegetable - brussels sprouts that have been boiled, then fried or roasted until they are crisp, brown, nutty and fabulous. They're sprouts for people who don't like sprouts (a sizeable proportion of the population). New York's Momofuku Ssam Bar kicked off the craze, Sydney's Porteno picked it up, and it ran from there.
David Chang's original recipe in his 2009 Momofuku cookbook calls for pan-frying sprouts in batches until they have ''sizzled, shrunk, popped and browned'' then roasting until crisp and serving with Vietnamese nuoc cham, fried coriander leaves, chopped mint, puffed rice and a sprinkling of the popular Japanese seven-spice seasoning shichimi togarashi sprinkles. ''It's a funky thing, the sprout,'' Chang says. ''Sauteed or roasted, it takes on a bitter, burnt element really well.''
At Berta, chef O Tama Carey says she loves that brussels sprouts are back in season and back on the menu. ''We deep-fry the outer third of the leaves until very crisp and serve them on top of the finely shaved raw hearts,'' she says. ''It's a complete converter.''
Sprouts are deep-fried until crisp and nutty, then tossed with lentils, mint, hot English mustard and sweet vincotto at Porteno. ''We love sprouts, and thought it was a good dish to challenge people with,'' chef Ben Milgate says. ''But we never expected them to be this popular.'' He says most people were forced to eat overcooked, bitter-tasting sprouts as children, which leaves a long-lasting phobia that only deep-frying can remove.
They've been spotted at Prime House in Bourke Street and Meatmother in Richmond. At Fitzroy's Backstreet Eating, Timothy Tehan serves oven-roasted brussels sprouts with bacon lardons, almonds and a smear of Dijon mustard.
''I've done green beans to death,'' he says. ''Then I had the crisp-roasted brussels sprouts at Sydney's Porteno and thought they were stunning.'' But do people love them or hate them? ''Once they try one, they're converted'' he says.
At the Builders Arms, also in Fitzroy, chef Josh Murphy sends out pan-roasted sprouts with bacon, parsley and pepper. ''I've never had anyone say they don't like brussels sprouts,'' he says. ''So far.''
Why do I care? Because sprouts have had a bad rap for too long.
Can I do it at home? Too easy. Lightly boil, then halve and pan-fry ruthlessly in oil or roast in a hot oven, toss in a strong, spicy, sweet dressing and serve.
Recipe - Crisp-roast brussels sprouts
Choose smallish sprouts, and make sure you keep the leaves that fall off during the cooking, as they will crisp up beautifully in the oven.
750g brussels sprouts, trimmed
100g thick bacon or pancetta lardons
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp butter
Sea salt and pepper
Pinch of dried roast chilli or cayenne
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1. Cook the sprouts in simmering salted water for 4 to 5 minutes until just tender. Drain well and cool enough to handle. Cut each sprout in half, saving the leaves as well.
2. Heat the oven to 220 degrees. Cook the bacon lardons in a frypan until crisp. Add the sprouts and cook cut-side-down over high heat for 2 minutes.
Add the reserved leaves, soy sauce and butter, sea salt and pepper and chilli, and toss well for a further 3 minutes until browned.
3. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10 minutes or until crisped. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season well and serve with lemon zest and lemon wedges.
Serves 4 as side dish