As I said in yesterday’s post, I found a really fun foodie restaurant on my recent trip to China. I asked them how they described their cuisine, and they said “Beijing creative,” which I thought was perfectly apt. We had about six dishes at the the table and they were all excellent. This was one of the simplest and yet one of the best: cauliflower stir fried with chiles and onion.
The restaurant had nice halogen lights in the ceiling which shone down directly on the tables, and that explains why the picture of the restaurant food is so much better. (Same camera, same photographer… but my kitchen obviously needs some better lighting to be competitive.) Anyway, this was the restaurant dish:
And after planning a decent strategy, here was my attempt to recreate it. I’ll throw in proudly that I aced it on the first try, bad kitchen lighting notwithstanding:
So that’s it. It’s both completely simple and completely delightful. Serve as a main dish or as an accompaniment to any contrasting tastes.
For the cauliflower:
- 1 Tbsp peanut oil
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4″ ginger, minced
- 10 dried chiles, cut into 1/2″ pieces (use kitchen shears), seeded
- 4 scallions, sliced diagonally into 1/2″ lengths, white and green parts separated
For the sauce:
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
- Heat 2 quarts water until boiling. Add the cauliflower and stir well; blanch very briefly (about 1 minute), then drain into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop further cooking. Do not skip this step, and do not boil the cauliflower too long.
- Heat the peanut oil in your wok until it just begins to smoke, then add the cauliflower and stir-fry for about 2 minutes until it begins to turn golden.
- Turn down the heat to medium low. Add the garlic and ginger, stir-fry for another 30 seconds; then add the white parts of the scallions and the chiles, and stir fry for about a minute until the aromas are released.
- Swirl the soy sauce and the Shaoxing wine into your wok and stir for a moment so that the cauliflower pieces are coated.
- Turn off the heat, stir in the green parts of the scallions, and serve.
Variations: You’re not really supposed to eat the chili pieces; they are there to lend their color and flavor to the dish. So for a spicier meal, you could add 1 tsp hot chile oil to the wok when you add the chiles. Another obvious variation would be to replace steps 1 and 2 with deep-frying the cauliflower for 1 minute, removing all excess oil, and then picking up at step 3. To send the flavor into Sichuan territory, add 1 Tbsp of numbing Sichuan pepper corns in step 3 above.