This vegan sticky sesame cauliflower is batter dipped and baked (instead of fried!) before being drenched in a sweet and spicy sesame sauce and served over a bed of rice.
We have a bunch of Chinese vegetarian restaurants in Philly. You guys know of these places? They typically have what appears to be a normal Chinese restaurant menu, but everything is vegetarian, and it’s usually crazy good.
I discovered these places about fifteen years ago, and at some point after that I caught part of some public radio broadcast where people were discussing them and how good the food was, how close the taste came to the conventional, meat-based versions of the dishes, and the fact that they were usually made from seitan. Someone said something along the lines of, “Well if you deep fry it and cover it in sugary sauce, of course it’s going to be good.” I had to agree.
Eventually I discovered that deep-frying wasn’t necessary. You can totally fake that. Now I find out cauliflower works just as well as seitan. My head is spinning.
As much as I love cauliflower, I have to say, when you un-fry a bunch of little cauliflower florets and cover them in a super flavorul and (refined sugar free!) just sweet enough sauce, they don’t taste like cauliflower, which is okay in this instance.
I think this probably comes pretty close to versions of this dish made with chicken, buuuuuut I haven’t had chicken in a long time, so I’ll just have to promise that it tastes super good.
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Sticky Sesame Cauliflower
- 1-2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cups unflavored soy or almond milk
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 large cauliflower crown broken into florets
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp. sriracha
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 2 scallions chopped
- toasted sesame seeds
- cooked rice for serving
Preheat oven to 450° (preheating is crucial here, so don't skip it). Use about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a large roasting pan or oven-safe skillet.
Stir milk, flour, salt and baking powder together in small bowl. Dip cauliflower florets in mixture to coat, shaking off any excess batter. Arrange in a single layer in roasting pan or skillet.
Bake 10 minutes.
While cauliflower bakes, combine soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and sriracha in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir cornstarch and water together in a small container until cornstarch is fully dissolved. Add to soy sauce mixture and stir to blend. Bring the sauce back up to a simmer and let it cook until it thickens. Remove from heat.
Remove cauliflower from oven and flip. Lightly brush florets with remaining tablespoon of oil. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes more, until they begin to sizzle and lightly crisp.
Remove from oven and pour sauce over florets. Return to oven and bake 3-4 minutes more, just until sauce becomes very sticky and coasts florets.
Serve over rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions.
You can also skip the rice and serve the cauliflower as a wing-style appetizer.