We’ve been on season 3 of the lockdown in Manila and I’ve recently had the craving for some good Chinese American food–Panda Express. After some scouring on the internet, I found a good plant-based recipe, replacing chicken with cauliflower. The results, I tell you are absolutely amazing– while I do miss meaty goodness of chicken, the cauliflower is a great substitute in that it maintains a delicious bite on the inside while being able to hold the crispy coating of the batter–and and effectively absorbing the orange sauce as well.
This is a simple recipe where you can choose to cook the cauliflower by deep frying, air frying, or letting them crisp up in the oven. The key is that outer coating of the cauliflower should have a crispy exterior.
For the orange sauce, it’s best to use freshly squeezed orange juice. The amount of sweetener that you will use for this recipe will depend on how sweet your orange juice is. If you find that it’s more sour and tart, you can add more sugar–and if it seems to be very sweet, you can also adjust the amount of sugar that you will use in the sauce. It would be best to toss the cauliflower in the orange glaze or sauce right when you’re about to serve it to prevent it from becoming soggy.
So read on to know how to make this delicious dish that will remind you of Panda Express 🙂 I just forgot the sesame seeds at the end, but will hopefully update this in the future.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5-8 minutes (deep fry, and sauce)
15 minutes (air fryer or oven)
- 1 medium to large cauliflower head, chopped into bite-sized florets
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup refrigerator cold water
- Salt and pepper to taste (about a pinch each), or use ½ tsp Lasa All-Purpose Seasoning
- cooking oil (about 1/2 to 1 cup for deep frying)
- Optional: panko bread crumbs for baking or air frying
- Optional: toasted sesame seeds or chopped chives for garnish
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 3 tbsp up to ¼ cup sugar or sweetener (according to taste, depending on sweetness of orange juice)
- 2 tbsp cornstarch slurry (1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water)
- Salt and pepper according to taste
- To make the batter, add the cornstarch, flour, salt and pepper (or better yet, Lasa All-Purpose seasoning) in a bowl. Then add ½ cup cold water and mix. The batter does not need to be very smooth, much like tempura batter, but make sure that there are no huge clumps of unmixed flour.
- Place the cauliflower florets in the batter to coat each floret.
- If you’re going to air fry or bake it, coat the cauliflower florets in some panko breadcrumbs. You can do this as well if you’re deep frying, but it’s not necessary.
- Cooking the Cauliflower:
- For deep frying:
- in a pan over medium-high heat, add the cooking oil and wait for it to heat up. You can check this by putting a small drop of batter on the oil. If it floats within 3 seconds, the oil is ready.
- Cook the cauliflower for about 2-3 minutes, or until the coating is golden brown and crispy.
- Once cooked, place on a rack or some paper towels to drain the oil.
- For air-frying:
- Place the cauliflower in the basket and air fry at 180°C for 9-12 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
- For cooking in the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Arrange the cauliflower florets on a tray lined up with baking paper.
- Place in the oven to cook for 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
- For deep frying:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add all the ingredients for the orange sauce except the cornstarch slurry. Mix and adjust the flavor according to taste.
- Once it’s almost about to boil, add the cornstarch slurry and mix, letting it cook for one minute or until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon Then turn off the heat.
- When it’s time to serve the dish, toss the cauliflower in the orange sauce and place on a plate. You can sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds or chopped chives on top to garnish the dish.