It was a pivotal frankly foodie moment. We were having lunch at a corporate pizza joint, an unusual occurrence to being with. Aside from the usual pizza, I spied something on the menu that looked interesting to someone like myself who loves both Asian food and eats a mostly plant-based diet. They called it sticky cauliflower. Huh. I ordered it as an appetizer. I was hungry and I love vegetables.
You know when you have something to eat that is so awe inspiring and beyond delicious that it kind of changes your life? This was one of those moments for me. Sticky, hot and sweet, crunchy and savory, sticky cauliflower was one of those moments for me.
Wowza. I knew instantly that I was going to have to recreate it at home At $10.99 a plate, I was not going to spend my money on just five flowerets of a cruciferous vegetable in the future so I set my sights on recreating the recipe at home. First, I had to buy rice flour which cost me a whopping $0.99 at the dollar store. I found rice wine vinegar for $2.99 at the discount grocery store and everything else I could either swap out or I had. The first results were delicious but not an exact match. I keep at it because I have the ingredients already and it is now cheap to recreate.
This represents yet another budget savvy strategy that the frugal community can embrace. If you find some new dish or food that you love there are plenty of copycat web sites that will help you recreate it. Just google the recipe adding the words copycat recipe and you will find any number of websites that are devoted to helping foodies make their own Red Lobster biscuits, Olive Garden bread sticks, Cheesecake Factory cheesecake and more.
To be fair, some things are too complicated, costly or time consuming to recreate at home but many are not. If you crave something from a restaurant on a regular basis then ask yourself, will I save money by mastering an at-home recipe? More often than not, the answer is yes. I actually had not been to this particular pizza restaurant in years, we just happen to be cruising by after doing some errands, were hungry and it was not going to work out to drive all the way home to eat and then try and get back in time to pick my partner’s dad up at the airport so we decided to drop in. Bob is a huge fan of medium crust pizzas, not too thin, certainly not deep dish and I give the restaurant props for trying to accommodate his request for a thicker pizza. The appetizer, however, sent me over the edge. Sticky, savory, sweet and tangy…did I mention crunchy? The one concession to the recipe I’ve made is to use my air fryer rather than fry in oil. This saves me a ton of calories and is healthier.
Sticky Sweet Cauliflower
1 cup rice flour and water
Generous pinch of salt and garlic powder
1 head cauliflower broken into florets
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (not a bit more, it is strong)
1 tablespoon ginger paste
3 large garlic cloves minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon gochujang (substitute chili sauce if needed)
Garnishes: crushed peanuts and slivered green onions
Method: Whisk the flour, salt and garlic powder together. Slowly whisk the water into the flour until you have a thin paste. You will need to eyeball how much water.
Gently dip the florets into the batter and ‘fry’ in your air fryer until done, about 12-15 minutes. Shake frequently and keep an eye on them until you figure out how long it takes.
While the florets are in the air fryer, whisk together all the sauce ingredients and cook for about five minutes on the stove top until thickened and bubbling. This takes about five minutes. Once the florets are crispy and done, toss them with the sauce and return back to the air fryer for one minute. Garnish with crushed peanuts and slivered green onions.
Alternative: You can bake the florets in a preheated oven at 350-deg F for about 20 minutes and then return them to the over for about 3 minutes once they are coated with the sauce.