Kung Pao Cauliflower

Forget chicken (and your stack of take-out menus): this sweet and spicy vegetarian dish proves once more that cauliflower is king.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 45 min
  • Active: 45 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying

3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated

1 medium jalapeño, thinly sliced

One 1-inch piece ginger, minced

2 large eggs

3/4 cup cornstarch

1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into florets (6 to 7 cups)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon roasted and salted peanuts, roughly chopped


Special equipment:
a deep fry thermometer
  1. Whisk together the sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil in a medium bowl.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallion whites and jalapeños and cook, stirring, until the jalapeños are soft and the seeds start to turn golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, until soft, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the chili sauce mixture. Bring a boil and let cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. 
  3. Fill a large heavy-bottom pot, fitted with a deep fry thermometer, with 2-inches of oil and heat the oil to 350 degrees F over medium-high heat. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. 
  4. Whisk together the eggs, cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a medium bowl. Fold in the cauliflower until well coated in the batter. Add one-third of the cauliflower to the oil with a slotted spoon and fry, stirring as needed and adjusting the heat to maintain temperature, until golden, crispy and tender on the inside, about 6 minutes. Remove the cauliflower with the slotted spoon and transfer to the rack. Sprinkle with salt. Fry the remaining cauliflower, in 2 more batches, making sure the temperature of the oil comes back to 350 degrees F between each batch. 
  5. Add the fried cauliflower, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper to the sauce and gently toss to coat well. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with cilantro, peanuts and the reserved scallion greens. 
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