What Was the Concept Behind This Dish?
So, I’ve been watching Korean dramas non-stop since quarantine started and basically, it looks like Kdrama characters have shifted all their food-love from lamyun to fried chicken or “chi-mek” which is a combo of “chicken” and “mek-joo” (which means beer). I think I could create an entire second blog devoted to just veganizing Kdrama food and if I turned it into a mukbang, I could probably retire…. Should I do it?
I digress (as usual).
Anyhoo, because of all the fried chicken-ness of Korean dramas, I’ve been wanting to see if I could veganize some of my favorite “fried chicken” recipes. Hence, the Kkampoong Tofu I posted a few weeks ago. Next, I wanted to try my hand at General Tso’s chicken and that’s how this recipe came to be.
It’s Always The Hole In The Wall…
The BEST General Tso’s Chicken I’ve ever had in my life was from Mandarin Wok on Green Street in Urbana, Illinois. Mandarin Wok was one of those highly functional restaurants, where they clearly committed all their money to creating delicious food… and not the décor of the restaurant, if you get my drift. The menu consisted of tri-fold pamphlets at the register. At least, the one that I could read. The “real” menu, I understand, was the Chinese that was scrawled onto the wall behind the register. And it was there that the “real” General Tso’s Chicken lurked in plain sight, if not translation. Luckily, I had a couple of friends in college who could read Chinese and put me onto the menu, so that I could simply under “Number 36, please.”
And MY GOD it was so good. The outside was crunchy and sauce was spicy and tangy at the same time. It was so delicious I would often wrap some up in the styrafoam container they gave us drive it home with me all the way to Chicago. It was never as good as eating it at the restaurant (or in the same city), but it was still incredible and worth it.
My Tricks For Making This Recipe.
- I used cauliflower here because the flavor pairs incredibly well with the sauce, and moreover, it isn’t too heavy like tofu might be.
- I like to cut the cauliflower into big chunks, as while they are marinating, they will inevitably start to fall apart (and create little chunks for “popcorn cauli”!).
- I marinate the cauliflower in a little “no-chicken” vegetable base to add some extra flavor.
- You have to coat each chunk of cauliflower very well in the corn starch. A thin coating will not create the “crunch” you’ll want. It should be thick—thicker than you think is necessary.
- You can double fry the cauliflower for extra crunch.
Crunchy Gochujang Cauliflower
- 1 head cauliflower rough chopped
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon “no chicken” vegetable base
- 3 tablespoons plant milk
- 2 2 cups plus ½ tablespoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon vegetarian oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1 teaspoon gochujang
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup onion chopped
- 5-6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 leaves red cabbage chopped
- 1 carrot chopped into very small pieces
- 2 whole scallions chopped
- 1/3 cup vegetable broth
- 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- Place cauliflower chunks into a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable base (I like “Better than Boullion”),together with the plant milk. Mix the cauliflower so that they are evenly coated and set the bowl aside (you can also refrigerate it overnight).
- To another large bowl, add 1 cup of corn starch (save the rest for later), ½ tablespoon of garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Stir everything together with a whisk and set it aside.
- Prepare the sauce in advance by whisking together the 1 teaspoon of the vegetable base, regular soy sauce, light soy sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, mustard, gochujang, maple syrup, and ½ tablespoon of corn starch.
- In a very large cast iron pan or deep fryer, bring the vegetable oil to350°F. While you are waiting for the oil to get hot, dredge some of the cauliflower in the corn starch + garlic powder mixture. Make sure that each chunk is thickly coated with the corn starch. You want the cauliflower to be super dry.
- Place the dredged cauliflower in the hot oil, ensuring not to crowd the pan. You will have to work in batches and once the corn starch is all used up, add the second cup of corn starch, together with the garlic powder and black pepper, so that you can continue to fully dredge your cauliflower.
- Fry your cauliflower for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Remove them from the oil and place them on a cooling rack to drain the excess oil. Repeat for the remaining cauliflower.
- Once all the cauliflower has been fried once, you can fry them all a second time(without worrying about over-crowding the pan) for extra crunch.
- Once you have completed frying all your cauliflower, begin making the sauce by adding extra virgin olive oil to a large pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, onion, carrot, cabbage, and scallions to the pan. Sautee the vegetables until the onion starts to turn translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth and cook for another 30 seconds. Then, stir in the sauce you prepared earlier. Cook the sauce over medium high heat for about 1 minute, until it gets thick.
- Turn off the heat and pour the fried cauliflower into the sauce. Stir the cauliflower gently until they are evenly coated. Drizzle them with a the sesame oil and sprinkle the sesame seeds. Serve immediately.