Chinese food is one of my all time favorite types of takeout. As a kid, I always requested Sesame Chicken when my family was ordering takeout from our neighborhood Chinese food place. That sweet sticky sauce smothering the bits of fried chicken and steamed broccoli all over a fluffy bed of white rice was what Saturday night tasted like. I hadn't had this particular type of satisfaction for a long time (probably seven years) until we went to Buddha Bodai in Chinatown for the first time, which is a vegan Chinese restaurant full of amazing choices and all the classics - and all meat free! It was as if I was dreaming a delicious dream. Of course, I ordered their Sesame "Chicken", and it did not disappoint!
A few months later, when I saw a recipe on Pinterest by Chocolate Covered Katie for Sticky Sesame Cauliflower, you can only guess how excited I was to try it out. If you think about it, the chicken part is not really that important for the experience of eating Sesame Chicken. It is truly all about the iconic sauce that tastes so ooey gooey good (and must be loaded with sugar!). I figured a roasted cauliflower floret would take on this sweet sauce just as well as a fried chicken nugget, and it would be way more guilt-free. I decided to make it even healthier by cutting back Katie's sauce to floret ratio and consciously avoiding the total coated stickiness. It turned out well - not as sticky as the Saturday night takeout version, but a yummy adult, vegan, health-conscious take on the Sesame Chicken experience.
As many of my recipes begin, I started by firing up the rice cooker to achieve that perfectly fluffy white rice that Asian restaurants are famous for. I also preheated the oven to 450 degrees. Then, I cut up a head of cauliflower into halved florets. I spread the cauliflower on a greased cookie sheet and baked it for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I mixed together soy sauce, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, minced garlic, and minced fresh ginger in a small sauce pan and put in on medium heat to bring it to a boil. While I was waiting, I mixed together arrowroot powder (cornstarch would work too) with water until the powder was totally dissolved, as well as tossed the cauliflower for even baking for another 10 minutes. Once the sauce came to a gentle boil, I added the arrowroot mixture and whisked frequently as it returned to a boil and cooked it for another two minutes. When the cauliflower was done its second 10 minute bake, I poured the sauce over the florets and tossed to coat. Then I served on top of the rice, with sesame seeds and scallions for garnish. Voila!
1 cup basmati rice
1 head cauliflower
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh or ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1/4 cup water
sesame seeds and scallions for garnish