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Author Notes: The star of this dish might be the most popular vegetable at the moment but what really shines is the homemade Kung Pao inspired sauce. I say inspired by because the recipe uses pantry staples like cayenne, crushed red pepper and rice vinegar instead of harder to find Sichuan chilies or black and Shaoxing rice vinegars. None of the zingy excitement is lost in this full flavored take-out inspired meal. Serve alongside rice, spinach, avocado. —Cara Carin
Kung Pao Sauce
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup tamari
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar, coconut or turbinado work well
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon pink salt
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white or black)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more to taste
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
- 2 large heads of cauliflower
- 4 tablespoons tamari
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced on an angel
- 4 garlic cloved, minced
- 3/4 cup chopped cashews
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup green onion
- 4-5 cups rice, cooked
- avocado, to taste
- spinach, as desired
- lime slices to serve
- green onion
- Make the Sauce: Combine rice vinegar, tamari, water, sugar, corn startch and salt in a bowl. Whisk and set aside.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add sesame oil, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds and cook until a gentle sizzle starts. Turn to medium low. Cook and stir until the cayenne turns dark bowrn but does not burn. If the oils bubbles and gets too hot remove it from the heat.
- Then add in the black pepper, garlic and ginger. Stir for 30 seconds or until fragrant. It should be fragrant at this point and smelling really good.
- Stir the vinegar sauce with a whisk vigorously then slowly add in to the sauce pan. Stir and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. It will thicken up more as it cools.
- MAKE THE VEGGIES: Chop the cauliflower into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl with the tamari and garlic powder. Mix and let marinate while you prep the other veggies.
- Peel the carrots and chop into 1/4 inch pieces on an angle. Remove the seeds from the red bell pepper and cut into thin strips and then cut the stripes in half. Peel and minced the garlic. Chop green onions and ccashews.
- After the cauliflower has marinated for about 10 minutes heat 1 tbsp oil (coconut or sesame) in the same frying pan used to make the sauce. Once the oil is hot add in the garlic, cauliflower and all the marinade. stir around for 30 seconds. Cook the cauliflower in batches if there is too much to fit in the sauce pan.
- Add in the kung poa sauce, carrots and bell pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and top with a lid. Let cook for 8-10 minutes or until cauliflower is fork tender. Repeat if you have more veggies. Right before removing from the heat add the cashews and green onions then stir around.
- Make the Bowls: Divide up cooked rice, spinach, and kung pao veggies amongst bowls. Garnish with avocado, green onions and fresh lime. Pour extra sauce on rice and spinach if desired.