Cut away the dense cabbage core with a sharp paring knife and separate the leaves, tearing any very large leaves into smaller pieces that will fit well into your frying pot.
Arrange a double layer of paper towels on a tray or baking sheet and set it near the stove. Pour 3 inches of oil (vegetable oil or a mix of vegetable and olive oil, for frying) into a saucepan, making sure there are at least 3” of headroom to avoid spillovers.
Slowly bring the oil up to 375° F on a thermometer. Alternatively, test the temperature by frying a small piece of bread in the oil; when the oil is ready, it should take about 60 seconds to get the bread nicely crisp and brown without burning.
As the oil is heating, whisk together the cornstarch and flour in a bowl. Whisk in enough of the sparkling water to make a thin batter. Whisk in the poppy seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (or more if you like things spicy) 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a generous grinding of black pepper.
When the oil is ready, dip a cabbage leaf into the batter, let the excess drip off. Carefully immerse it in the hot oil. If there’s room in the pan for more than one leaf, you can fry several at a time, but don’t overcrowd the pan to the point where the temperature drops, which will make the coating greasy and generally less delicious.
Fry until the coating is puffed and very light golden (these will not get deeply colored). Transfer to the paper to drain and continue frying the rest of the cabbage.
Once all the cabbage leaves are fried, turn off the heat under the pan and arrange the cabbage on a platter. Season with a bit more salt and a squeeze of lemon and serve right away.
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