Thankfully cauliflower is one of those vegetables that you can pretty much count on being readily available year-round. Cauliflower is also exceptionally versatile. You can eat it raw or cooked in a multitude of ways. I’ve recently seen a Facebook post where someone roasted an entire head of cauliflower, then carved it like you would a turkey or roast chicken. Crazy! But I have to say that this vegetarian spin on Chinese orange chicken is my new favorite way of preparing cauliflower. It’s tough to say which component is the main draw with this dish: the golden fried cauliflower or the sweet and tangy orange sauce.
Orange Cauliflower – Vegetarian Orange Chicken
- 1 pound fresh cauliflower florets, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 eggs
- 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Juice of 1 large orange, about ¾ cup
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, finely minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced or grated, about 1 clove
- 3 -4 whole dried bird’s eye chili peppers
- 2 scallions, minced, about ½ cup
- Sesame seeds, optional
- Neutral flavored oil for frying, such as sunflower or vegetable
- Rice or quinoa (the latter being my preference), prepared per packaging instructions.
Start by heating the oil in a frying pan to 360 degrees. The size of your pan will determine how much oil you’ll need, but as a rule of thumb you’ll need the oil to come up 1½” along the side of the pan. At this point you may want to also prepare your rice or quinoa according to the packaging instructions.
Next, lightly beat the eggs in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Set aside. Then, in a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sea salt and pepper. Set aside. Working in batches, add the cauliflower to the flour mixture. Then coat the cauliflower with the eggs, allowing the excess liquid to drip off. After than, re-dredge the cauliflower, coating it once more with the flour mixture.
Working in batches again, fry the cauliflower until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per batch. Place the cooked cauliflower onto a paper towel-lined baking tray. Set aside while you make the sauce.
To make the sauce, whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and corn starch. Set aside. Then, in a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the dried birds eye peppers and toast for about 1 minute, being careful not to split the peppers, unless to want intense heat. Then, add the scallions, garlic and ginger, and sauté for 1 additional minute. At this point, you may wish to remove the peppers to avoid the risks of anyone chomping into one. Next, add the orange juice mixture and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Then add the cauliflower. Coat the cauliflower with the sauce, and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve immediately over rice or quinoa.
If you really want to impress your friends and family, serve this with black rice — they won’t know what hit them!