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Author Notes: Like the origin of General Tso's Chicken, the origin of this recipe is also a little fuzzy, a mix of sources and stories. The sauce recipe is adapted from Reddit (yes, Reddit!) and the recipe for the battered and deep-fried cauliflower comes, like many great recipes do, from Serious Eats. —Sarah Jampel
Serves 4 to 6
For the sauce and the frying:
- 2 quarts vegetable or peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 scallions, white and light green parts only, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
- 5 small dried chiles
- 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups water, divided
- In a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer, preheat the oil to 350° F.
- 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.
- 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:
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Koser salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup cold water, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
- 1 scallion, cut thinly on the bias, for serving
- Additional sesame seeds, for serving
- Rice, for serving (optional)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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. Add in sliced scallion and sesame seeds, then serve over rice.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!