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Brassica 2-Way – Vegan General Tso Cauliflower with Cauliflower Fried Rice

General Tso Cauliflower with Cauliflower Fried Rice

Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo

Pick up any Chinese food menu these days and you’ll likely see an interesting dish on there called General Tso’s Chicken.  A lot of restaurants will even showcase this delight on their list of Chef Specials or Recommendations. While one may think this dish to be a Chinese staple, the reality is that it has only even been around for about 50 years!

Peng Chang-kuei is the Taiwanese chef and creator of General Tso, named after a 19th Century Chinese military leader.   Chef Chang-kuei operated a restaurant in New York City frequented by Henry Kissinger in the 70ties and prior to Chang-kuei’s passing in 2016, he suggested that it was because of Kissinger that this dish became recognized and popularized in the United States where other chefs altered it to appeal to the tongues of Americans.

When I was on the Candida Diet 4-5 years ago, I was up against a lot of restricted ingredients.  That specific diet is low carb and grain free as these would spike blood sugar. This meant taking out rice, pasta, bread and tortillas.  It had me thinking back then of alternatives to these starches which always circled back to cauliflower. I’ve written recipes for cauliflower tortillas and cauliflower breadsticks and while I never ventured into the land of cauliflower pasta, I did really put this brassica to the grind in terms of functionality. 

In this recipe, I wanted to use a simpler technique that you could easily replicate, for a satisfying and relatively quick and healthy weekday dinner idea. It’s sure to satisfy the Chinese food loving fatty in us all!   I’ve made this many times and even cooked it for the entire restaurant staff at my old job for family meal before dinner service. They ate it up!

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable like collard greens, kale and Brussels sprouts and is likewise very high in Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals.  The antioxidants in cauliflower help to remove nasty chemicals more quickly from your body and it’s also high in fiber.

I’m going to use dried chile de arbol in this recipe which are small, spicy peppers high in capsaicin.  Capsaicin is what makes peppers hot. The hotter the pepper, the higher concentration of capsaicin. Capsaicin offers cardiovascular benefits, is a natural pain reliever and boosts immunity.  It also can fight inflammation and can lower the risk of diabetes.

Other switcharoo’s I’m making in this recipe are almond flour over bleached all purpose flour and arrowroot powder (the starch produced from the root of a tropical plant) instead of cornstarch. 

Cornstarch is what most Chinese food dishes contain to thicken the sauce.  The downside is that cornstarch is very high in calories and carbs, has very little nutritional content and a chalky flavor, while arrowroot powder is gluten and grain free and has no taste.  

When using arrowroot powder, it’s important to make a slurry with it using cold liquid before adding it to your dish to thicken it.  You don’t want to actually cook with it either as it will break down at high heat. Make sure you add your arrowroot slurry at the end of the cooking process to thicken so it doesn’t break down.

INGREDIENTS:

General Tso Cauliflower

  • 1 head of cauliflower – rinsed and cut into bite sized florets 
  • 1 C almond flour
  • ½ C arrowroot powder
  • Tsp salt
  • ½ C water
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • 3 green onions – sliced
  • Tsp sesame seeds

Sauce

  • Tbsp sesame oil
  • 5-6 dried chile de arbol (add more if you like it spicy or less for less heat)
  • 5 cloves garlic – minced
  • 2 inches peeled ginger – minced
  • ½ C liquid aminos or tamari
  • ¼ C rice vinegar
  • ¾ C vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder (mixed with a few Tbsp of the stock to make a slurry)

Cauliflower Fried Rice

  • 1 head cauliflower – riced in food processor or pre-riced
  • Tbsp canola oil
  • ¼ C white onion – diced
  • 3 C garlic- minced
  • 1 large carrot – peeled and diced
  • ¼ c frozen peas
  • 3 Tbsp liquid aminos or tamari

DIRECTIONS:

For the General Tso cauliflower, heat a dutch oven with about an inch of peanut oil.

Mix the almond flour, arrowroot powder, salt and water.  Whisk together until there are no more clumps. The consistency should be about the same as pancake batter.  Add more water if it’s too thick. Add the cauliflower florets to the mixture.

Start the cauliflower rice by heating a large saute pan with the canola oil on medium heat.  Add the white onion and cook for about 3 minutes then add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds then add the carrot.  The carrot will go for about 3 minutes and then you can add the cauliflower, peas and liquid aminos or tamari. Stir frequently and cook until the cauliflower becomes tender.  This will take about 8-10 minutes.

While the cauliflower rice is working, start the sauce and fry the cauliflower pieces.  

Once the oil is hot in your dutch oven, in batches you can drop your battered cauliflower.  You want to fry until golden brown and then remove to a cooling rack on top of some paper towels to drain excess oil.  Fry the cauliflower in batches until complete and be sure not to overcrowd the pan or it will reduce the heat of the oil too much causing it to cook unevenly.

Make the sauce while the cauliflower frys.  

In a wok, add the sesame oil on medium/high heat.  Add the dried chiles and cook for about 2 minutes then add the garlic and ginger.  Cook for about a minute then add the liquid aminos or tamari, vinegar and vegetable stock.  Let this go for a few minutes to reduce a bit then whisk in the arrowroot slurry and remove it from the heat.  The sauce should be nicely thickened. If it’s not quite thickened, you can make more slurry and add to the sauce.

Place all the fried cauliflower in the wok with the sauce and stir to combine everything.  Gently toss the cauliflower with the sauce to evenly coat.  

Plate by spooning some of the cauliflower rice into a bowl and top with the General Tso.  Garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds.  

 

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