About three years ago I decided to cut way back on meat. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good burger like nobody’s business – but I also value a plant-rich diet in order to get lots of proteins and nutrients. That’s why I was so excited to find this vegetarian version of one of my takeout favorites, General Tso’s chicken.
This recipe uses cauliflower rather than meat, but that’s about the only thing that’s not true to the original. It uses all the traditional ingredients – soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, garlic, red peppers and green onions to make a savory sauce that the cauliflower holds well. Della Jasmine rice with Toasted Sesame and Ginger could have been made for this recipe. The sesame and ginger in the sauce were further brought to life with the ginger in the rice, creating an awesome compliment to the dish.
If you’re intimated by deep frying – don’t be! It’s a snap aside from clean up. If you’d rather not fry, this recipe is incredibly versatile and can be adapted to fit your preferences. Fix it with pan fried chicken to be a healthier version of the original, or sub in tofu or shrimp for an even lower calorie option. Can’t wait to make it again for guests!
Serves 4 to 6, adapted from Food52
For the sauce and the frying:
2 Quarts Vegetable or Peanut Oil
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 Scallions, white and green parts only, minced
1 Tbsp Ginger, minced
5 Small Dried Chilies
½ Cup Hoisin Sauce
¼ Cup Rice Vinegar
¼ Cup Tamari or Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 ½ Cups Water, divided
1. In a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer, preheat the oil to 350° F.
2. Prepare the sauce: In a medium saucepan, add sesame oil, garlic, scallions, ginger, and dried chiles. Sauté on medium heat for a couple minutes, then add hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, tamari, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Stir and let come to a slow boil.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup water. Mix it completely, then add the remaining water to the cornstarch. (this prevents lumps). Pour cornstarch-water mixture into bubbling sauce mixture. Keep it bubbling on low, whisking often. It will thicken slightly.
For the Cauliflower:
½ Cup Cornstrach
½ Cup All Purpose Flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp Garlic Power
1 Tbsp Ground Ginger
3 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
½ Cup of Cold Water
½ Cup Vodka
1 Lg head of Cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
1 ½ Cups Jasmine Rice with Roasted Sesame and Ginger, cooked as directed
1. In a large bowl, combine cornstarch, flour, baking powder, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, garlic powder, ground ginger, sesame seeds, and crushed red pepper and whisk until homogenous.
2. Add water and vodka and whisk until a smooth batter is formed, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water if batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of thin paint and fall off of the whisk in thin ribbons that instantly disappear as they hit the surface of the batter in the bowl.
3. Add cauliflower to batter. Working with one piece at a time, lift and allow excess batter to drip off. Carefully lower into hot oil. Repeat with remaining cauliflower until wok or fryer is full. Do not crowd pan. (You’ll be able to fit about half of the cauliflower in each batch)
4. Fry, using a metal spider or slotted spatula to rotate and poke the pieces as they cook until evenly golden brown and crisp all over, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm while you fry the remaining cauliflower.
Assemble: Once you’ve got all your cauliflower fried, add to a large bowl, pour the simmering sauce all over the pieces, and toss them to coat them evenly. Then serve over Della rice! Delicious!