When food is frizzled, it is cut extremely thinly and then fried so that it stars to curl up while also becoming very crunchy. Both meat and vegetables can be frizzled, and frizzled foods are popular as garnishes on a wide range of dishes. The practice is common in some restaurants, although it is also perfectly possible to frizzle food at home. Some markets also carry frizzled foods which are vacuum packed for freshness.
The origins of the word probably come from the French friser, which means “to curl.” The curling of frizzled food is an important component of its overall presentation, since it creates a very distinctive look. Especially when the food has been julienned, it may look like a small coiled curl. A scattering of these curls on top of a dish can completely change the way the diner interacts with it, adding a new level of visual interest and texture.
Since you must slice food thin in order to frizzle it, it cooks all the way through and tends to become very crisp. For diners, this can make a nice contrast with the rest of a dish, adding new mouthfeel to something which might otherwise be a bit boring. The crispness will also allow a food to hold its shape very well after frizzling, even when it is used as a garnish on a dish with a great deal of moisture, such as a steaming roast or a soup.
Both bacon and prosciutto are often frizzled, since these meats lend themselves to the process very well. They have an intense flavor which could be overwhelming in large amounts, but which can also contribute to the overall composition of a dish. Frizzling these foods can be one way to add them to a larger dish, such as a salad or a pasta platter. However, vegetables can be frizzled as well. In many cases, a food with an intense flavor is chosen for frizzling; ginger, for example, tends to frizzle rather nicely.
To frizzle food, you will need a very sharp knife or a mandoline, along with a large pot such as a wok for frying the food. Start by slicing the food thinly and uniformly. As a general rule, the julienne cut is best for frizzling, since it creates such a beautiful shape when it is fried. You can also try cutting other more imaginative shapes in food before you frizzle it, of course. Once the food is cut, heat the oil and fry it in small batches so that it cooks evenly, and pull it out to drain. If you allow it to drain and dry completely, you can store the frizzled meat or vegetables in an airtight container for several days before use.