Crispy Cauliflower (Chinese-Style)
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
The flavor-packed light batter coating bite-sized pieces of cauliflower is the key to this dish's success. It’s a handful of ingredients—a blend of rice and chickpea (garbanzo bean) flours, a paste of ginger and garlic, five-spice powder, sweet chili sauce, and other goodness—but it comes together in a snap. Cutting a lime or two in half and searing them, cut-side down in the pan, is totally optional but a nice extra burst of acidity if it’s done just before eating.
1-2 limes, optional
Canola oil or other neutral oil, for frying
3 cups cauliflower florets
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro, optional
1 red chile, thinly sliced, optional
1½ tablespoons finely chopped ginger
2½ teaspoons finely chopped garlic
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons rice flour
3 tablespoons chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder or ½ cube, mashed with a fork
¾ teaspoon five-spice powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons water, plus additional as needed
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1½ tablespoons lime juice
If you would like to serve with grilled limes, cut in half crosswise and remove any seeds. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the cut sides of the limes with oil and put on the hot pan until well marked, 3 to 4 minutes. Alternatively, the limes can be browned in a skillet.
Put the ginger and garlic on a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, continue to chop the two, bringing them together and occasionally pressing on them with the flat side of the knife. Continue until the mixture is a paste. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.
Stir in the rice and chickpea flours, vegetable bouillon, five-spice, salt, and pepper. Slowly, while stirring, add the water, chili sauce, and lime juice. The mixture should be thick, but loose enough to coat the cauliflower. (If need be, dip and fry a couple of florets before coating them all in the batter.)
Fit a large, wide saucepan with a deep-fat/candy thermometer and bring about ½ inch of oil to 350˚F. Line a small baking sheet with paper towels.
Put half of the florets in the batter, stirring to coat. Lift out with a slotted spoon, letting excess batter remain in the bowl, and add to the oil. Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature during cooking, and turn to brown the florets on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on the paper towels.
Repeat with the remaining florets.
Transfer to a serving bowl or individual plates. Sprinkle with the parsley and chile, if using. Add the grilled limes and serve immediately.