Time: 1 hour
Since we moved to LA about a month ago, I haven’t had much motivation to cook for the blog. The complete newness of the geography, culture and lifestyle here has been so overwhelming (in a good way) that thinking of new ideas for dishes keeps getting pushed back with the countless discoveries of restaurants, beaches, places to visit and things to do here. The constant assembly of dishes in my head had stopped for the first time in years, but I didn’t miss it or feel its absence.
But we are settling in fine now, establishing a routine and getting familiar with the novelty of living here. I was recently inspired to cook this dish after discovering an Asian market out of the corner of my eye on the way to a job interview in Torrance last week.
After picking up some gorgeous green cauliflower, striking out on finding fresh bird’s eye chilis and scoring some Onigoroshi, I exited the store with a singular mission to make General Tso’s Tofu, but with the green cauliflower as the base.
This dish is all about crispy texture and clingy sauce working together to create the perfect bite. To achieve that ratio, I combined equal parts of cornstarch for crispness, AP flour for body and rice flour for a touch of softness, then adding cold fizzy water to create a tempura-like lightness throughout.
Once fried, the florets are tossed into a gingery-garlicky sauce slightly thickened with a cornstarch slurry until evenly coated, then served right away with a touch of heat, salty chopped peanuts and crisp scallions for a decadent and addictive dish.
for the sauce
1 TB dark sesame oil
1/4 cup minced ginger
1/8 cup minced garlic
1 cup scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
2 TB mirin
1 cup vegetable broth
2 TB sugar
1 TB soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 2 TB cold water
for the cauliflower
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 cup cold fizzy water
1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
canola oil, for frying
rice, chopped peanuts, sliced hot chilis or habanero powder and chopped scallions, for serving
To make the sauce, place the sesame oil into a small saucepan over low heat. Add in the ginger and garlic, toss with the oil to coat, and allow to soften for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the garlic or ginger to brown.
Add in the chopped scallions, stir, then increase the heat to medium. Saute for about 2 minutes, or until the scallions are bright green, then increase the heat to medium high.
Once the pan starts to sizzle, deglaze it with the mirin. Next, add in the 1 cup of broth, sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Allow the mixture to come to a small boil, then whisk in the cornstarch slurry and stir until thickened. Set aside to slightly cool.
To make the cauliflower, combine the three flours and salt, then slowly add 3/4 cup of fizzy water. Stir until smooth, adding an additional 1/4 cup if needed. You want the batter to the thick but smooth so it clings well to the cauliflower. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw in the cauliflower florets and allow to boil and soften for about 4 minutes. Using a skimmer or tongs, remove the florets from the water and place onto a dish towel. Lightly fold the towel over and gently smoosh the cauliflower to get rid of some of the water. You just want to gently snap it—not smash it. Throw the cauliflower florets into the batter and very gently stir with your hands to coat. Set aside.
Place several inches of canola oil into a clean heavy pot over medium-high heat. After about 7 minutes, throw a pinch of batter into the pot. If it bubbles immediately, you are ready to fry. You can also insert a thermometer into the oil until it registers and maintains a temperature of 350 degrees.
Working in small batches*, drop the battered florets into the hot oil. Using tongs or chopsticks, gently stir to ensure the batter doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Allow to fry for a few minutes until the florets develop little golden specks. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
*It’s important that you work in small batches here—overcrowding the pot will reduce the temperature of the oil resulting in soggy, greasy florets.
To assemble the dish, toss the florets in the sauce until well coated. Serve with rice, hot peppers, peanuts and chopped scallions, if desired.