kung pao cauliflower Questa ricetta è disponibile anche in italiano.
I love Chinese cuisine. Kung Pao Cauliflower
Since my early teens I had started reading books and experimenting with flavours and techniques that are different from those I grew up with.
Back then (I was still living in Italy) it was really really hard to find the actual ingredients, not to mention how expensive they were. Now we can save half of the prep time buying pre-made sauces both online or in the shops, like hoisin, teriyaki and even a vegan version of oyster sauce, made out of mushrooms.
Today I decided to share my take on probably the most popular Sichuan dish here in Europe: Kung Pao.
Kung Pao is a spicy, stir-fried Chinese dish typically made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers.
The classic dish in Sichuan cuisine originated in the Sichuan Province of south-western China and includes Sichuan peppercorns. Although the dish is found throughout China, there are regional variations that are typically less spicy than the Sichuan serving. Kung Pao chicken is also a staple of Westernized Chinese cuisine (source Wikipedia).
The plantbased version I’m sharing with you today has a medium level of spice and features cauliflower in place of chicken.
If you’re not a fan of cauliflower or it simply isn’t in season, you can substitute it with:
- firm tofu (pressed)
- or even your favourite vegan chicken.
Kung Pao cauliflower is a very hearty dish that is reasonably easy to make.
The secret to achieve the authentic Sichuan flavour is a few key ingredients to make the perfect Kung Pao sauce, and these are:
Hoisin Sauce: a blend of fermented soybean paste with vinegar and Chinese spices that results in a dark coloured sauce that is sweet and salty.
Please note this sauce cannot unfortunately be substitute.
- Chinese Wine (Shaoxing): made with fermented rice, largely used in Chinese cuisine, especially in marinates. It can be substitute with dry sherry, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or gin.
- Chinese Black Vinegar: a good quality balsamic vinegar would be a good substitute.
Other basic ingredients to achieve the authentic flavour of this recipe are:
- Sichuan Peppercorn: It has a unique aroma and flavor that is neither hot like chili peppers nor pungent like black pepper. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones. When I cannot find these I usually use black peppercorns and a pinch of coriander seeds instead.
- Leeks or Spring Onions or Scallions.
Step 1 – The Marinate
First of all we have to marinate the cauliflower to make sure it absorbes all the flavour.
Cauliflower is like a white canvas; its flavour is pretty neutral, so don’t be afraid to play around with sauces and make sure to marinate the florets for as long as you can.
The marinate is simply a mix of cornstarch, soy sauce and Shaoxing wine with a pinch of bicarb of soda, that will make it slightly puff up whilst cooking.
Once the cauliflower has marinated (I recommend to do it for at least half an hour), it is time to cook it.
- stir fry in a pan with some vegetable oil for 5-7 minutes.
- spray the florets with some vegetable oil and cook in the air fryer at 180° for 15 minutes.
Whatever method you choose, make sure to cook the cauliflower with its marinate.
Step 2 – The Stir-Fry
In a wok or large pan (you can use the one you cooked the cauliflower into) add some vegetable oil and heat it for a few seconds.
Add grated or finely chopped ginger and garlic, along with chili flakes.
Then chopped bell peppers go in, and finally spring onions too.
We need to stir fry these veggies for 5 minutes or until they are halfway cooked, then the Kung Pao sauce is added.
Step 3 – The Kung Pao Sauce
To make the Kung Pao sauce all you need to do is combine all the ingredients and stir well, until the sugar dissolves.
Add the sauce to the stir fry and wait for it bubble before adding the cauliflower florets and the peanuts.
Now to the recipe and detailed instructions of how to make this juicy and delicious Kung Pao cauliflower dish easily at home.
Kung Pao Cauliflower Recipe
..for the marinate..
1 Medium Cauliflower
2 tbsp Soy Sauce (or Tamari)
1 tbsp Shaoxing Wine (read post for subs)
1 tbsp Cornflour
2 tsp Baking Soda
..for the stir fry..
1/2 cup Unsalted Peanuts
3-4 Spring Onions
3 Garlic Cloves
2 Fresh Chilies
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Green Bell Pepper
2 tsp Chili Flakes
1 inch Fresh Ginger
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp ground Sichuan Peppercorns (or Black Pepper + Ground Coriander)
..for the Kung Pao sauce..
1/2 cup Water (or Vegetable Broth)
5 tbsp Soy Sauce
3 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
2 tbsp Chinese Black Vinegar (or good quality Balsamic Vinegar)
2 tbsp Shaoxing Wine (read post for subs)
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 tbsp Cornflour
1. Prepare the marinate: in a bowl by whisking together soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, cornstarch and baking soda. Cut the cauliflower into florets and stir into the marinate. Set aside.
2. Prepare the Kung Pao sauce by whisking together all the ingredients until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
3. Once the cauliflower has marinated, add it into a pan with all its marinate and some oil and stir fry until crispy (5-7 minutes). Alternatively you can cook it into the air fryer at 180°C for 15 minutes.
4. In a wok or large pan heat the vegetable oil. Add the grated garlic, ginger and chili flakes for a few seconds until slightly coloured, then add the bell peppers cut into squares, ground peppercorns and the fresh chili peppers. Stir fry for 5-7 minutes until crunchy. In the last 2 minutes also add the chopped spring onions.
5. Pour the Kung Pao sauce over the stir fry and let it bubble for 1-2 minutes before adding the cauliflower in.
6. Add the cauliflower and the sesame oil into the stir fry and mix well until the cauliflower is evenly coated and the sauce has thickened (about 2-3 minutes).
7. Toast the peanuts in a hot pan for a couple of minutes, then add them to the stir fry.
8. Serve the kung pao cauliflower hot garnished with fresh spring onions and chilies, and with some fragrant steamed rice.