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Spicy Chickpea Poppers

['2 1/2 heads of garlic (about 35 cloves)', '3 fresh bay leaves', '1/2 cup (120 mL) canola oil', '1 tablespoon fish sauce', '1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper', '2 teaspoons ground Sichuan peppercorns', '2 teaspoons chile flakes', '1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper', '1/2 teaspoon ground coriander', '1/2 teaspoon ground kombu', '1/4 teaspoon ground cumin', '1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder', '1/4 teaspoon light brown sugar', '1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed', 'Canola oil, for frying', '1 (15-ounce/425 g) can chickpeas, drained and peeled', '1 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk', '1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup (31 g) all-purpose flour', '2 teaspoons garlic powder', '1/2 teaspoon baking soda', '1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper', '1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt', 'A good handful fresh Thai basil leaves', '1 garlic clove, grated', '2 teaspoons Garlic Confit Sauce (see below)']

Gently smash the garlic cloves so they are cracked but not completely broken. Peel off the skins.
In a small saucepan, combine the garlic cloves, bay leaves, and oil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is evenly golden brown on all sides, about 12 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the rest of the mixture to a blender (or use an immersion blender). Add the fish sauce and pepper. Blend until the mixture is smooth.
DO AHEAD: Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or 2 months in the freezer. Thaw and/or stir before use.
Even though some of the spices are already ground, we will process them a second time to get a finer powder that will stick well to the chickpeas. In a spice grinder, grind the spice mix ingredients to a fine powder. Set aside.
In a deep frying pan or Dutch oven, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 2 inches (5 cm). Heat over medium-high until the oil bubbles up immediately around an inserted wooden chopstick.
Meanwhile in a large bowl, toss the chickpeas with the buttermilk and the 1 tablespoon of flour until they are evenly coated in this light batter. In a separate large bowl, mix the remaining cup (31 g) flour, the garlic powder, baking soda, white pepper, and salt. Add the coated chickpeas to the flour mixture and toss until you have a slightly wet but crumbly mixture. It may look like the chickpeas are kind of sticking together, but it’s okay.
In a large bowl, mix the garlic with 2 teaspoons of the Garlic Confit Sauce (save the rest for another day). Set aside.
Now, in several small batches as needed, add the breaded chickpeas to the hot oil and start breaking them apart with a chopstick. It’s okay if they are in small clumps of 2 to 4 chickpeas. Fry for a couple of minutes, until the chickpeas are golden brown all around. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the garlic sauce and repeat to fry the rest of the chickpeas.
Add the basil leaves to the frying oil and immediately cover the pot with a lid, leaving a small slit for the steam to escape. When the popping sound has subsided, remove the lid and fry the basil until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the chickpeas.
Toss the chickpeas to coat them evenly with the garlic mixture, then add the spice mixture and toss until evenly coated. Season with more salt if needed. Serve immediately.

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