Cauliflower prepared in the General Tso’s style is an excellent substitute for chicken when ordering Chinese takeout. It’s even more delicious than the chicken version and crispier to boot!
Cauliflower: A Superior Vegan Substitute
At first, we worried that cauliflower-based dishes were going out of vogue or that people had already made every possible cauliflower-based dish (cauliflower pizza crust, cauliflower dips, cauliflower soup, etc., etc.), but surely that could never happen, right?
True, cauliflower has just replaced kale as the trendy vegetable of choice.
This is where General Tso’s cauliflower comes in.
It’s obvious that a dish combining nutritious cauliflower with the ubiquitous General already exists, therefore I know this isn’t a novel recipe. It’s hard to believe, but someone was the first to try blending those two concepts.
So, our story goes like this: a close friend of mine invited us for an Indo-Chinese supper, and he piqued my interest by promising I would be “pleasantly surprised.”
Now here’s the kicker: my friend started off as a vegetarian and eventually became a vegan. I really hoped it wouldn’t be alfalfa sprouts, beans, and salad.
The noodles, rice, curry eggplant, and, yes, General Tso’s cauliflower he prepared for me were all surprisingly tasty. Because he teases us about being blog-obsessed, I told him, “I’m going to blog that recipe!” I made a few adjustments, such as not blanching the cauliflower before frying and opting for a deeper fry instead of a shallow one, but here it is nonetheless.
In order to prevent the cauliflower from drying out, we use cornstarch in the marinade. When you coat the broccoli florets in rice flour that has been seasoned with sesame seeds, you get the deliciously crunchy coating that is characteristic of General Tso’s Chicken.
I expect some of you to question, “Can you bake this recipe?” My honest response is that I do not know but that I intend to find out someday. Some brave soul among our readers will hopefully give it a shot first and report back to the rest of us. This vegetarian and vegan-friendly take on General Tso’s cauliflower is perfect for your vegetarian and vegan guests. You, too, will not be let down, believe me.
So let’s just call it vegan, healthy, and gluten-free (if you use Tamari in place of soy sauce). I’ll update this with the official buzzword, “thin,” and rename the dish “Skinny General Tso’s cauliflower” as soon as someone provides an oven-baking method that yields a lovely, crispy cauliflower.
All you vegetarians and vegans who have been craving some General Tso, here you go! Relax and take it easy with this one.
- 1 small head of cauliflower
- 2 to 3 cups of peanut or canola oil (for frying)
- 1 cup of rice flour
- ¼ cup of water
- 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper
- 5 whole dried red chili peppers
- 2 cloves of finely minced garlic
- 1 scallion; cut into half-inch at an angle
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1½ tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and water
- 1 tablespoon of peanut or canola oil
- ½ tablespoon of Shaoxing wine
- 2 teaspoons of finely minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
- Cauliflower should be cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces. In a sizable basin, combine the cornstarch, baking soda, salt, sesame oil, white pepper, water, and 1/4 cup of rice flour and stir until a batter forms. Throw the cauliflower in and combine until it is thoroughly coated. When everything is adhered to the cauliflower, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of rice flour over it and mix. At the bottom of the bowl, there shouldn’t be any more batter. Simply add a little more rice flour if there is. Add one or two teaspoons of water if the batter appears dry or crumbly.
- After that, evenly distribute the toasted sesame seeds over the cauliflower. Heat the oil by heating it in a small pot or cast-iron skillet to 375 degrees. The cauliflower should be fried in batches for 3 minutes or until crisp and light golden brown, then transferred to a baking sheet covered with paper towels.
- In a wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. After adding, allow the ginger to cook for 15 seconds. Add the dried red pepper flakes and garlic. For 10 seconds, stir. Then, add the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and water right after adding the Shaoxing wine (or chicken stock). Reduce heat and let the concoction simmer.
- Re-fry the cauliflower in batches for around 20 seconds or until golden brown if you previously fried it and want the pieces to be particularly crispy. Drain on paper towels. Stirring continuously, gradually whisk the cornstarch slurry into the sauce and boil for 20 seconds. The sauce ought to cover a spoon completely.
- Add the cauliflower and scallions when all the ingredients are thoroughly covered in sauce. Serve!