There’s orange chicken and there’s its vegan counterpart — chili orange cauliflower. I cooked this for Sam but, of course, I had to taste a piece and it was just gorgeous. Crispy coating around each cauliflower floret and a sticky sauce that is sweet and hot with a hint of salt.
Chili orange cauliflower? Yes, it is descriptive of the sauce made with freshly-squeezed orange juice, chopped chilies, sugar and rice wine vinegar.
The cauliflower is just normal cauliflower. There’s a variety of cauliflower discovered in Canada in 1970 with color “ranging from creamy coral to sunburst orange” but you don’t need that to make this Chinese-style dish. Just get regular cauliflower, make sure it’s very fresh so that it’s naturally crisp and you’re good to go.
- ¼ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice (I used Mandarin oranges)
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 to 2 bird's eye chilies, finely sliced
- cooking oil for frying
- ½ cup tapioca (or corn or potato) starch
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 and ½ cups cauliflower florets
- sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
- Make the orange sauce. In a saucepan, boil the orange juice, rice wine vinegar, sugar, chilies and a generous pinch of salt. Keep the pan uncovered. The mixture should boil gently over medium heat so that it reduces by half without scorching.
- At the end of ten minutes, the sauce should be slightly thickened. Don't wait for it to turn too thick before removing from the heat. The orange sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
- In a wok or frying pan, start heating enough cooking oil to reach a depth of about two inches.
- Make the batter. Mix the starch, flour, two generous pinches each of salt and pepper, and enough iced water to make a batter slightly thicker than pancake batter.
- Throw the cauliflower florets into the batter and mix to coat each piece well.
- Drop the battered cauliflower florets one by one into the hot oil. Cook until crisp and lightly browned along the edges. Scoop out and drain the excess oil (a kitchen spider is useful).
- Arrange the cauliflower florets on a plate. Drizzle the orange sauce over them. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
- Serve the chili orange cauliflower at once.