This recipe was inspired by and a mashup of two Kung Pao recipes I recently came across online. One was from Serious Eats by J. Kenji López-Alt, who fried tofu in a batter laced with vodka (more on that below), and a batterless Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts over at Bon Appétit.
I’ve never heard of adding vodka to a fry batter before, but was more than happy to give it a try after finding a dusty bottle of it after a brief root through our cabinets. According to López-Alt, the vodka works nicely with the blend of cornstarch and flour, acting as a binder that helps the batter evaporate quickly—keeping whatever you batter crisp, even when it’s coated in sauce. It’s true! This batter stayed super crispy and looked really beautiful (even after we finished shooting these photos and ate it ice cold. 🙂 )
Kung Pao anything is best prepared in a wok, but I don’t have one, so a Dutch oven worked for me. If frying isn’t your thing, and your are wok-less like me, you can roast the trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts with a little oil in a 425-degree oven for 20-30 minutes, turning a few times for even cooking.
Looking for similar recipes? Check these out! 🙂
FOR THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS
- plenty of grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup AP flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
FOR THE SAUCE
- 1 TB vegetable oil
- 1 TB garlic, minced
- 1 TB ginger, minced
- 4 ribs celery, sliced
- 1 bunch of scallions, chopped (reserve white and green parts separately)
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 TB soy sauce
- 1 TB sambal
- 1 TB rice vinegar
- 1 TB sugar
- 2 TB water, blended with 2 tsp cornstarch
- cooked white rice
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- dried or fresh Thai chili peppers
- reserved green chopped scallions
To make the Brussels sprouts, place several inches of oil into a heavy cast-iron pot. (I use this Lodge brand pot for frying.) Bring oil to 350 degrees over medium-high heat (you can also test for the oil’s readiness by inserting a wooden spoon into the oil and touching it to the bottom of the pot. If bubbles form around it immediately, you are ready to fry.)
Whisk together the next 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Working in small batches, dip the sprouts one by one into the batter, then carefully transfer to the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pot or the sprouts will start sticking together. Fry the Brussels sprouts halves until golden, turning them around with chopsticks or heat-resistant tongs to ensure even cooking. Transfer to paper towels (I line a baking sheet with paper towels) to drain while you repeat the process for the rest of the Brussels sprouts.
Once your sprouts are all fried, make your sauce. Warm the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for one minute, then add in the celery and white chopped scallions. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes, then add in the rest of the sauce ingredients except for the cornstarch and water slurry. Allow to come to a simmer, then pour in the cornstarch slurry. Stir until thickened, then remove from the heat.
Add the Brussels sprouts to the sauce, and toss gently to coat.
Serve immediately over cooked white rice, garnishing with the chopped peanuts, Thai chilis and reserved chopped green scallions.