Cauliflower florets are roasted until tender and tossed in spicy sauce with chunks of bell peppers to create this healthy and flavorful Hunan cauliflower.
Remember when I stole the idea for my sesame sriracha tofu idea from Wegmans? Well I did the same thing with this recipe. Actually, I got both ideas on the same trip. I was really hungry that day, and apparently indecisive as well. I grabbed a scoop of both dishes out of the vegetarian buffet and decided both would eventually be recreated in my kitchen. I guess I figured I’d be slick and space the posts way apart so nobody would notice, but I’m not the slickest.
So, on that particular hungry trip to the supermarket, I kind of had to give the Hunan cauliflower a try. I’ve seen Hunan chicken on a million different restaurant menus, but I’ve never tried Hunan anything. I guess I was waiting around for a vegan version of Hunan chicken to pop up on a Chinese vegetarian menu at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. Given my limited experience with this particular type of dish, I decided to just recreate exactly what I ate, to the best of my ability. And I did a pretty darn good job.
Savory, spicy, and a little bit gingery is how I’d describe the sauce. I considered doing batter coated baked cauliflower like I did for my sticky sesame cauliflower, but I’ve gathered from reader comments that some of you have trouble with that one, so I decided to keep things simple. Cauliflower gets tossed in cornstarch and roasted while the sauce simmers with some bell peppers. Once the cauliflower is done, douse it in the sauce and serve everything up with rice.
The sauce is delicious and would be excellent on all kinds of veggies, or even tofu, so feel free to experiment if you’re not feeling the cauliflower.
Spicy Hunan Cauliflower
- 1 medium cauliflower crown broken into florets
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 4-6 dried chile peppers cut into thirds (remove the seeds for a milder sauce)
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry or Chinese cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 star anise
- 1 bell pepper any color (I used half of a red and half of a green)
- 3 tablespoons chilled water
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3 scallions chopped
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Red pepper flakes for extra heat (optional)
- Cooked rice
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Place the cauliflower into a large bag with the oil and cornstarch. Toss to coat. Arrange the cauliflower florets in an even layer in a roasting pan or oven-safe skillet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until cauliflower is tender and lightly browned, flipping once about halfway through.
- While the cauliflower bakes, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and dried chile peppers. Sauté until very fragrant and the chile peppers darken, about 1 minute. Add the water, soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, maple syrup, sesame oil, black pepper, and star anise. Raise heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by about a third, stirring occasionally. Stir in the bell pepper and allow to simmer about 5 minutes more, until the pepper is tender.
- In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water, then add it to the sauce. Allow the sauce to continue simmering for a minute or two, just until it thickens up.
- Once the cauliflower is finished baking, remove it from the oven and pour the sauce over top. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.
- Divide onto plates and serve with rice.