🍲🍜 Sichuan style Chinese cauliflower dish

Nihao and Welcome to my Foodpost site about modern Chinese cooking, Asian inspired dishes, and classic recipes cooked in my small Austin kitchen. (My own personal blog is linked below). When it comes to cooking, getting the best taste is always my priority, but I try to take a less labor-intensive approach. Originally from Beijing, now I live in the US and travel around the world. 

So. If you like veggies and bold flavor, this Sichuan style Chinese cauliflower dish should definitely be on your radar. These crunchy cauliflower bites are cooked in a numbing spicy sauce that is so rich. Even though this recipe is vegan, I’ve included notes on how to add different types of protein, to make a more substantial dish for your dinner. {Vegan, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Homemade Chinese cauliflower stir fry

I created this dish based on the classic Chinese cauliflower dry pot recipe. It is a popular restaurant dish and there are several approaches to cooking it. The common version is made with crunchy cauliflower, dried peppers, and Chinese sausage. Sometimes with a spicy sauce. The cauliflower is usually quickly stir-fried to infuse the smoky wok air, then served in a small, shallow pot that sits on an ashtray-sized ethanol (Sterno) burner. The cauliflower continues to cook on your table and the flavor gets more intense over time. It’s one of those veggie dishes that are so popular and substantial enough to serve as a main.

Why this recipe

When I was developing this recipe, I made a few changes to make it more suitable for home cooking and to adapt it to a vegan dish. As you might already know, my husband started eating plant-based last year and he created his own vegan blog Gastroplant. Since then, I’ve been gradually changing my own cooking style so we can both enjoy the dishes I cook.

In the past, I mentioned that Chinese cuisine is vegetable-centered, but it has very few pure vegan dishes by default. Because chefs usually add a small amount of meat, dried seafood, chicken broth, or sauce that contains animal products to give the dish extra flavor.

After eating and cooking more plant-based dishes, I realized that simply eliminating the protein or replacing a sauce with the vegan version doesn’t translate the flavor profile completely. Instead, you have to adjust the seasoning and increase the amount of aromatics you use, so the dish will taste as rich as the original version.

That’s why I decided to use a bolder seasoning to make this traditional Chinese cauliflower dry pot. I’ve also introduced various ways to add your own protein if you’d like to add some meat to make your dinner more substantial.

Sichuan cauliflower dry pot served in plate

Cooking notes

Introducing Chinese cauliflower

When you visit a Chinese market, you might see a type of cauliflower that has a longer stem and smaller florets. It almost looks like broccolini. It has a lower water content, a tougher texture, and does not fall apart easily. So it’s perfect for a Chinese stir fry.

Can’t find Chinese cauliflower? No worries at all. You can use regular cauliflower to cook this dish; just reduce the cooking time (see more on this in the recipe card).

Chinese cauliflower
Chopped Chinese cauliflower

Important seasonings

Doubanjiang (豆瓣酱), also called fermented spicy bean paste, is not your average hot sauce. It is a super rich, fermented, spicy paste made with dried fava beans, fresh chili peppers, salt, and wheat flour, then aged for between one and eight years. Doubanjiang has a deep savory, spicy and quite salty taste. It is a key ingredient in classic Sichuan dishes such as Mapo Tofu and Sichuan Eggplant Stir Fry. I use this ingredient to add spiciness and extra umami to the sauce. I highly recommend the 3-year aged Doubanjiang from The Mala Market, which has a deeper umami. You can also find the regular 1-year aged doubanjiang on Amazon.

Sichuan peppercorn (Hua Jiao, 花椒) is another key ingredient in Sichuan cooking. Fresh Sichuan peppercorns have a pungent aroma that lingers around the nose. Its taste is almost indescribable: numbing, tingling, and somewhat refreshing like mint. These peppercorns add a savory, smoky, and slightly citrusy flavor to a dish, and it’s that flavor that makes genuine Sichuan food. It’s a key ingredient in many classic Sichuan dishes such as Dan Dan Noodles and Mala Chicken.

I highly recommend you purchase Sichuan peppercorns from Mala Market. They carry the freshest Sichuan peppercorns in the US, sourced directly from Sichuan. It truly makes a world of difference.

With these two ingredients, your cauliflower dish will taste so rich and satisfying and can totally be served by itself on steamed rice as a main dish.

Ingredients for making Sichuan cauliflower dry pot

Cooking workflow

Cooking Chinese cauliflower is very simple.

  • You start by sauteing the aromatics and the spices to release the fragrance.
  • Then saute the cauliflower with the spices.
  • Cover and braise the cauliflower with a small amount of broth until the cauliflower is cooked through and the broth is absorbed.
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