Forget chicken: This sweet and spicy vegetarian dish proves once more that cauliflower is king. Originally from Sichuan province but popular in other parts of China, as well as in Chinese-American restaurants, kung pao chicken is traditionally a stir-fry. Here, the cauliflower is deep-fried for a light and crispy texture that pairs perfectly with the dish’s signature chiles and peanuts.
Whisk together the sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil in a medium bowl.
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.
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.
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.
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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