Lorde is back! Well, she’s back reviewing onion rings, at least, and we’re here for it. In her first onion ring review of 2021, the world’s most famous onion ring aficionado reviewed the Pickled Onion Rings at Auckland’s Hotel Ponsonby, which serves elevated English pub fare.
On her (no longer secret) onion ring-focused Instagram, Lorde wrote this about the pub’s rings:
We’re talking PICKLED onion rings which is a first for this reviewer. I totally vibe the concept — used to eat pickled onions out of the jar as a youngster — however I think if you’re gonna go there, go there, and let acidity rather than sweetness dominate. Absolutely sensational batter, perhaps the best I’ve tried. 4/5 overall ringsperience.
This is a solid review and will surely lead to a ring boom at Hotel Ponsonby. It was also glowing enough to motivate us to break out the ol’ wok and try these rings for ourselves (since we’re probably not going to be in Auckland anytime soon).
To master this recipe, I looked into New Zealand pickled onion culture (yes, that’s a thing). There’s actually a fair number of recipes for pickled onions throughout New Zealand’s food media outlets. The thing is, I don’t really have a week to let something pickle in a dark cupboard. So I took my cues from New Zealander’s recipes and adapted them to make it doable in about an hour with a sous vide.
I’ve used my sous vide to make a lot of pickles (root veg, eggs, fish, etc.) in the past and it really only takes about an hour to have a fully-brined pickle. For this recipe, that sped-up process will do nicely.
Lastly, I really focused on the batter. I knew it had to be something “sensational” for Lorde to give it full marks. So I made sure I was devising something that’d have a beautifully crunchy exterior while still providing a softer interior, leading to the briny and savory pickled onion inside. That’s enough preamble, let’s get into the recipe!
“Lorde’s Favorite” Pickled Onion Rings
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/8 cup salt
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 peppercorns
- 10 coriander seeds
- 10 mustard seeds
- 2 bird’s eye dried chilis
A quick note on the brine. This is where I’m drawing acidity from. There’s a low amount of salt and sugar that’ll give you that “briny” edge of a pickle. Then the addition of apple cider vinegar will bring that mild pH acidic vibe to the whole thing.
Otherwise, you do you on the pickle brine spices. If you want it spicier, add more chilis. Mix and match with seeds and barks. Overall, this is a mild pickle brine with a classic edge that leans towards the New Zealand-centric pickle recipes I found online.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 bottle or can of pilsner (more as needed)
- 2 egg yolks
- Large pinch of salt
- White pepper
- Two yellow onions
- Neutral oil
Another quick note: As you can see in the image below, I’ve removed the inner skins between the layers of the onion. This is crucial for a bite-able onion ring. If you’ve ever had an onion ring that immediately slid out of the batter, it was because of that slippery film that’s between every layer. It takes a little extra time but is as easy as simply pulling the skin off after you’ve made your rings.
What You’ll Need:
- Large Zip-lock bag
- Sous vide circulator
- Large pot
- Small pot
- Large bowl
- Wok or deep fryer
- Slotted spoon
- Metal grate and baking sheet
- Paper towels
For the pickled onions:
- Set the sous vide circulator to 185F/85C in a large pot of water.
- Add the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a small pot and bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat and let cool for ten minutes.
- Peel and slice onions, making sure to remove the film between each layer of the onion as you push out the rings (it should slide right off).
- Add the spices and onions to the Zip-lock bag. Pour the warm brine into the bag.
- Immerse the bag into the bath and use the pressure of the water to remove any excess air and seal the bag. Use a clip to hold the bag to the side of the large pot.
- Cook the onion rings for 30 minutes.
- Prepare an ice bath. When the 30 minutes are up, place the Zip-lock bag into the ice bath to stop the cooking and cool the pickled onion rings.
For the onion rings:
- Combine flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt, and white pepper in a large bowl.
- Add the egg yolks and beer while whisking until you get a thin batter (sort of halfway between a crepe and pancake batter).
- Lay the onion rings on a paper towel and pat dry.
- Heat about one-half gallon of neutral oil in a wok or heavy-bottomed pot (I used sunflower) to 375F/190C.
- Using tongs, dip the rings into the batter and then gently lay them into the hot oil, creating a single layer of onion rings.
- After about one minute, flip the rings with the tongs to brown them evenly on both sides.
- After another minute, remove the onion rings to a rack over a baking sheet. Immediately hit with a pinch of salt.
- Repeat until all the rings are fried.
- Serve with aioli dip.
I love fried pickle chips, so I knew I was going to love these. And, wow, thank you, Lorde, for turning me onto pickled onion rings. These are, hands down, some of the best onion rings I’ve ever tasted. And they were without a doubt the #1 best rings I’ve ever made. The onion was soft and hot with a deep pickle brine that had a touch of heat and acidity. The sweetness was there but tied more to the onion than sugar. Really though, the sweetness took a back seat to the overall brininess of the onion.
The batter was freaking sensational. The addition of corn starch allowed the batter to be super crunchy on the outside while still feeling supple on the inside. Moreover, as these rings cooled down (onion rings always get cold too fast), the batter stayed super crunchy.
Using aioli as a dipping sauce is a win as well (I used some good stuff from Spain). The lemon/garlic/mayo feel was the perfect counterpoint to the pickle brine and crunchy batter of the ring. This was comfort food in its purest form.
Finally, there was the side-by-side look of these rings compared to Lorde’s. You can judge for yourself below. I haven’t tasted my competition, but I do know that this is the only way I’ll be making onion rings from here on out. Lorde, if you’re ever near Uproxx’s offices — we got you.