A healthy dish for those who love spicy food and intense flavour. Dry-pot cauliflower is an easy stir-fry for everyday home cooking.
Although cauliflower has been popular for many years, recently there has been renewed interest in this versatile vegetable. I’ve seen many creative recipes for it: roasted as whole, grated to resemble rice, mashed like potatoes, even used to make gluten-free pizza dough!
In China, stir-fried cauliflower is a very common dish for home cooking. My mum and dad used to cook it either with marinated pork slices or with tomato. It was never an exciting ingredient to me until I discovered a dish called dry-pot cauliflower (干锅菜花) in restaurants. Since then cauliflower became one of my favourite stir-fried vegetables.
What is dry-pot
Dry-pot refers to a type of dish which is served in small wok-like tableware (instead of regular plates) with a light flame underneath to keep it warm. The main ingredient varies: beef, chicken, fish, prawn, frog or vegetables like cauliflower and wild mushroom.
All the dry-pot dishes share two features: spicy and dry. The hotness comes from dried chilli, fresh chilli or pre-made chilli sauce. And they appear to be dry, namely, they have very little liquid or runny sauce. Thus, the flavour of dry-pot dishes is quite intense.
A fuss-free dish
I enjoy very much restaurant-style dry-pot dishes which are often heavily seasoned. However, when it comes to everyday home cooking, I prefer an easier and healthier version like the recipe I am sharing here. The ingredients can be purchased easily thus no extra trip to the Chinese shops is needed.
Thin pork belly slices are usually used in dry-pot cauliflower to add some extra zing. But I find bacon stripes are just as good. They don’t need marinating and require less effort in cutting (it’s up to your own taste to choose either smoked or unsmoked bacon). If you wish, skip bacon to make it a vegetarian dish.
A few cooking tips
- Remember to firstly “dry fry” the blanched cauliflower without any oil. This is to make any remaining moisture evaporated.
- This dish is cooked on high heat, so you need to continuously stir to prevent any ingredients from burning.
- Use high-quality Sichuan peppercorn which makes a noticeable difference to the final taste of the dish.
- Serve it with rice and other savoury dishes the Chinese way. Or enjoy it as a side dish the western way.
Spicy dry-pot cauliflower (干锅菜花)
- 1 cauliflower, about 500g/18oz
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 100 g bacon, cut into small pieces, 3.5oz, see note 1
- 2 slices ginger, julienned
- ¼ bell pepper, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh chilli, finely chopped , see note 2
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Cut cauliflower into bite-size pieces (remove the stem in the middle). Bring a pot of water to a boil. Put the cauliflower in and cook for 2 minutes then drain
- In an empty wok (or a deep frying pan), cook cauliflower and Sichuan peppercorns on high heat. Keep stirring until the cauliflower turns slightly brown.
- Push the cauliflower to one side of the wok, pour the oil on the other side then stir in bacon and ginger.
- When the bacon changes colour, add bell pepper, garlic and soy sauce. Continue stirring until the cauliflower is cooked to taste.
- Scatter scallions, fresh chilli and salt over the contents of the wok. Stir for another 20 seconds or so.