Nicole MacPherson: Meatless Mummy Con Carne


Spice Up Your Life: Cauliflower Kung Pao

Do you like it spicy?


It doesn't matter how long Seinfeld has been off the air: whenever I hear the words "Kung Pao," I think of George Costanza. George likes spicy chicken! Fortunately for me, my children have started to take an interest in Seinfeld reruns, and so they do not immediately raise their eyebrows and exchange meaningful glances when I repeatedly say "Nicole likes spicy cauliflower!" while preparing this meal. 

RELATED: Your Kids Will Go Crazy For These Cauli-Tots

Not in front of me, anyway.

This vegetarian version of the takeout favourite is so flavourful and filling that you won't even miss the spicy chicken! The cauliflower adds a low-calorie crunch; topped with chopped cashews or peanuts, this is a complete, satisfying meal.

Some people in my house - who are not me - do NOT like particularly spicy food, and when I'm preparing it for them, I only add a tiny squirt of Sriracha to the sauce; then I slather my own meal with that deliciously hot Rooster sauce. When anyone asks me questions during dinner, I feel justified in mopping up my sweaty brow, saying, "It's the Kung Pao! Nicole likes her cauliflower spicy!" 

Maybe I'm ready for my own show. What do you think? It would be a show about nothing!


For the sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce 
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
Sriracha to taste (I use a scant 1/2 teaspoon for my non-spicy-loving family. 4 teaspoons would take this to "call the fire department" hot. 2 teaspoons would make a "hot but not burning" sauce. Use your judgement and squirt accordingly!)
For the vegetables
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 bunch bok choy or 3 bunches baby bok choy, chopped
1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
10 white mushrooms, quartered
For the rest
4 cups steam-fried noodles
1 bunch green onion, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup chopped cashews or peanuts (optional)

  In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water to make a paste. Add rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger, and stir. Add Sriracha as needed - taste and add more if you really like it hot! Set aside.

  Heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a large wok or frying pan; add the cauliflower and saute until edges are browned, about five minutes. Scoop cauliflower into a bowl and set aside.

  Place the remaining vegetables in the wok and saute for 5 minutes. Push vegetables away from the centre of the wok to make a "well" (see photo below); pour the sauce into the well and allow it to cook for a minute or two. When the sauce bubbles and thickens (1-2 minutes), add the cauliflower back into the wok. Stir to coat all the vegetables in the sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until vegetables are "tender-crisp" and hot. Don't overcook! No one wants soggy vegetables.

  Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and add to the wok, stirring to coat.

  Serve topped with chopped green onion and cashews or nuts. Add more Sriracha, if you really like spicy cauliflower!

First, make the sauce.

Chop the veggies.

Saute the veggies.

Push the veggies aside and make a well. Pour the sauce in, cook until it's thickened. 

Mix veggies, sauce, and noodles together; top with green onions and nuts and PAO! 

Want more takeout alternatives? Try my Nutty Noodle Salad, my Perfect Pad Thai, or my Mexican Salad-in-a-Jar.