Recipe: Kung Pao Cauliflower

“She has all the max level trophies and has mastered all the vegetarian spell words like “tofutti”, “kombucha”, and “zoodles”


Firstly, no I haven’t reverted back to vegetarianism. Secondly, I’ve been working interstate over the past couple of months during the week and coming home on weekends, so I have barely had any time to do any recipe testing –  or cooking for that matter. This vegetarian dish I’m about to share with you is well loved by my sister and the family, and is simple to make when you are short on time, and maybe even on a bit of a budget.

If you know me, you know I love food. I love cooking food, eating food, sharing food, trying new foods etc. But I still struggle to eat large quantities of meat – even small portions over long periods of time. It’s been four years since I’ve started eating meat again, but I’ve become some kind of weird semi vegetarian shark. Vegeshark. I go through periods of meat hibernation. Because did you know that when sharks eat a seal, they don’t need to eat for a year or so afterwards? Yeah that’s me. If I have a burger once on a weekend, I probably will only be able to stomach 1 more meat meal during the week. And because of this, I have a variety of vegetarian recipes under my belt.

This is an advantage for my sister, who is max level vegetarian. If you think of vegetarianism as a game, she’s level 1000. She’s hoarded all the max level gear – like hemp clothing and vegan leather whatever that means – she has all the max level trophies and has mastered all the vegetarian spell words like “tofutti”, “kombucha”, and “zoodles”. She’s defeated all the boss fights like: McDonalds At 3 AM, KFC With Rice (it’s an Asian thing) and Australia Day BBQs. She takes care of abandoned animals, has purple hair, and has Hayao Miyazaki’s soot sprites tattooed on her arm. I’m not even joking, this person is 100% non fiction.

Nevertheless, I’m quite certain you will still enjoy this dish even if you do not have soot sprites tattooed on your arm, or rainbow coloured hair. It can be cooked as a main, or a side dish. The flavours are quite strong and there is plenty of heat through it. The cauliflower is crispy and sticky and spicy. It is inspired by Kung Pao Chicken, a hot stir fry dish from the Sichuan province in China. By all means you can definitely replace the cauliflower with chicken, but have a go at the meatless version. I serve this with brown rice or buckwheat soba noodles for a nice balance of textures.

Cut all chilli ingredients by about a half if you’re the type of person who orders the lemon dressing at Nandos.

In fact, you’re probably better off learning a different dish if you order the lemon dressing at Nandos. I’m not judging you don’t worry.*Judges you*

Happy feasting, and remember to mind your table manners!

Kung Pao Cauliflower


Prep time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 30 minutes

Stir Frying: 10 minutes

Serves: 4 people

Difficulty: Easy

Cauliflower marinade
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup of panko or breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
Stir fry base
  • 10 sichuan dried red chillies
  • 1/4 tablespoon of sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 tablespoon of dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped cashew nuts (or peanuts)
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1  tablespoon of ginger, minced
  • 2 stalks of spring onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Kung Pao Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut flower sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce
  • 1 birds eye chilli, diced
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch


1.Preheat the oven to 218 degrees celsius as you mix the together all the ingredients of the cauliflower marinade (minus the cauliflower florets and olive oil). If the batter becomes too thick once you add the cornstarch in, just add a few tablespoons of water at a time until it becomes light enough to coat your florets evenly.

2. Drop the florets into the batter one by one, tapping off any excess batter before placing them slightly apart from each other on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Once all the florets are on the tray, drizzle the olive oil over the top, and place into the oven on the higher shelf to bake for 25 minutes.

3. In the meantime, prepare the stir fry base. In a mortar and pestle, crush the dried chillies roughly until they are broken and the insides are exposed. Set aside and crush the sichuan peppercorns and the red pepper flakes until they are roughly combined as a coarse powder. Set aside.

4. Heat the oil on high heat in a large wok and fry the crushed dried chillies and peppercorn/pepper flakes powder for about 5 minutes, or until the dried chillies turn brown and start wheezing.

5. Add the ginger and garlic, and reduce the heat to medium. Stir fry for about 2 minutes before adding the crushed nuts. Continue frying and tossing everything in the wok for about 5 minutes. Add half of the spring onions once the nuts start to become toasted and fragrant. (save the other half for garnish)

6. Mix the kung pao sauce ingredients in a bowl and add to the stir fry, cooking for 2 minutes until it thickens and becomes a dark brown colour. Taste to adjust – you can add extra sauce or sugar at this point to your liking.

7. Take off the heat and set the wok aside for later.

8. Check the cauliflower in the over at 25 minutes. They should be pretty crispy and golden, if not, leave in for another 5 minutes.

9. When ready, toss the cauliflower into the wok of Kung Pao sauce and stir to coat, turning the heat back on briefly to heat the sauce through.

10. Add the remaining spring onions and some un toasted crush peanuts over the top, and you are ready to serve!


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