I’ve been working on this Korean Fried Cauliflower recipe for a few months now. Fricken Nailed it! They’ve got a crisp, crunchy exterior, a slightly chewy interior, are just sweet and spicy enough with some bright acidic notes.
This is a deceivingly simple recipe. You mix some things up for the batter, you mix some things up for the sauce. You fry the battered cauliflower, you toss it in sauce. The tricky part is deciding what ingredients to put in the batter and sauce.
I’ve found that there’s a dozen or more vastly different recipes for Korean Fried Cauliflower. Some have vodka or ice cold water in their batter. Some have a whole cup of chili paste while others only have 2 tablespoons. One has some difficult to find ingredients like Asian Whole Wheat Flour and Potato Starch. It’s all over the place. KFC should be easy to make at home with common ingredients and consistent results. You might have to search for some gochujang at an Asian grocery store or buy some online.
For the batter, I took notes from this HuffPost Tempura Batter Recipe. A one to one ratio of flour and cornstarch, some bubbly water, and an egg white. Kenji over at Serious Eats uses vodka. He says that alcohol prevents the development of gluten in the flour. I was looking for a crunchy exterior and a chewy interior. I’ll have a little gluten with my KFC, please. Combine the flour and cornstarch in a large mixing bow, add the seltzer and a shirred egg white. Whisk until there’s no more dry flour.
The sauce for Korean Fried Cauliflower is composed of some basic ingredients. The gochujang chili paste is the base of the sauce which provides some heat and sweetness. The soy sauce adds salt and umami. The Rice Vinegar and Lime Juice bring some brightness and acidity. The Honey and Light Brown Sugar provide some added sweetness. Finally, the Garlic and Ginger add lots of awesomeness – the ginger is a critical component in this dish. Simply put these ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
Aside from the batter and the sauce, the third element of this recipe is the preparation and your workstation. Whenever you’re working with a pot of hot oil, you want to be sure you’re in a clean, obstruction free environment. Mix up your batter and sauce then set them aside while you clean up and put things away. You want to prep your workstation so you’re moving in an assembly line fashion starting with the raw cauliflower pieces and ending with a serving plate. It should look something like this; Tongs > Cauliflower > Batter > Pot of Frying Oil > Slotted Spoon> Paper Towels > Sauce > Serving Plate. I’d also recommend wearing an apron and not suede sneakers (lesson learned). You never know when a little splatter of oil may jump out at ya or you drop something on your toes.
Use tongs to coat the cauliflower in batter then fry them in oil. Add one piece of cauliflower to test the temp of your oil first; it should be around 350°F. It should take 5-6 minutes for the battered cauliflower to get a crunchy, golden brown exterior. Longer than that means your oil isn’t hot enough and the cauliflower will be soggy. Less than five minutes and your cauliflower may be a little undercooked inside – which is better than soggy.
Move your fried cauliflower to drain on some paper towels while you fry the rest in small batches. Turn off your stove when you’re done. Using tongs, quickly toss the cauliflower in the sauce, just enough to coat, and shake off any excess. You can spoon more on top or serve a side of extra sauce for dipping. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with sesame seeds, green onions, and lime wedges.
Korean Fried Cauliflower
- 1 Head cauliflower cut in to smaller pieces
- 4 cups frying oil; peanut vegetable, canola, etc.
- 1/2 cup Gochujang
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbs Soy Sauce
- 3 tbs rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbs water
- 1 tbs lime juice
- 2 tbs light brown sugar
- 2 tbs honey
- 1 tbs minced garlic
- 1 1/2 tbs minced ginger
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 3/4 cup Seltzer
- 1 egg white whipped
- Whisk together all the Sauce ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In another bowl, mix the flour and corn starch then whisk in the seltzer and egg white. The batter should be thick enough to coat a spoon and fall in thin ribbons that disappear in to the batter.
- Prep your work station; Tongs > Cauliflower > Batter > Pot of Frying Oil > Slotted Spoon> Paper Towels > Sauce > Serving Plate.
- Heat 4 cups frying oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Oil will be ready when you test with a small piece of batter coated cauliflower and it sizzles vigorously.
- Fully coat each piece of Cauliflower by tossing them in the batter with tongs. Allow excess batter to drain then add to hot oil. Repeat with enough spices to fill the pot without overcrowding. Fry cauliflower for 5-6 minutes until they start turning golden brown. If they take longer than 6 minutes, your oil is not hot enough and your cauliflower will be soggy. Less than 5 minutes means they may not be cooked through. Use a slotted metal spoon to transfer fully cooked cauliflower to paper town to drain. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.
- Before serving, use tongs to toss cauliflower in the sauce. Use tongs to shake excess sauce before adding to a serving platter.
- Garnish with sliced green onion, sesame seeds, and lime wedges.