I was recently gifted a wok as a housewarming present and I was super excited. I had never cooked with a wok before and I immediately started looking up recipes to make use of this great tool. Obviously it is ideal for stir fries of any kind, but this recipe for Kung Pao Cauliflower by Inquiring Chef really caught my eye. I slightly adapted the recipe to fit our kitchen and tastes, and went to town!
But first, I learned that I needed to season the wok to build up a non-stick surface and that trademark patina for which woks are known. To do so, I first cleaned the brand new wok using dish soap and let it dry. Then, over medium high heat, I added a few tablespoons of high-heat oil — I used vegetable oil — and some chopped scallions. I used a metal spoon to fry the scallions for about 5 minutes, making sure that the hot oil hit every surface of the wok. The metal spoon helps to open the pores of the steel and allow in the oil.
After carefully removing the hot oil and scallions, I rinsed the wok with hot water and let it cool. Lastly, I used a paper towel to rub in a very light layer of oil to the surface, and then placed the empty wok over high heat for 3 minutes. It might smoke a little bit, and the surface may become golden brown – that’s good! Once you let it cool completely, it is ready to use. After each use, you should rinse with hot water and reapply that light layer of oil to re-season and seal the wok; do not use dish soap.
We loved the sweet spice that this thick Kung Pao sauce delivers, and the crunchy salty fried peanuts as a garnish add the perfect balance. After a quick microwave steam and just a five minute fry in the wok, the cauliflower becomes tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside, aka the perfect vessel for this delicious sauce. Overall it is a really simple recipe that has the flavors of Chinese food takeout, except it is healthier, quicker, and vegan!
1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
2 tsp ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vegetable oil or peanut oil
1/4 cup peanuts
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 servings cooked white rice
Place cauliflower florets in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes. Whisk together rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, arrowroot powder, and salt. Pour over cauliflower florets and toss to coat. In a separate bowl, whisk together ginger, garlic, water, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, hoisin sauce, maple syrup, toasted sesame oil, and red pepper flakes for the kung pao sauce. Set aside.
Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add peanuts and fry until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Remove peanuts from the oil and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Add cauliflower to the hot oil and fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain off any remaining oil from the wok, and pour kung pao sauce over cauliflower. Simmer for about 2 minutes while sauce thickens. Garnish with peanuts and scallions. Serve over rice.