Korean fried chicken is a national snack food akin to pizza in the U.S. It’s basically fried chicken tossed in a unique, super delicious sweet and spicy sauce. I haven’t had it in almost 20 years, so I wanted to recreate a vegan version using oven-baked cauliflower and sweet potato chunks. And let me tell you, this recipe is so good that it won’t matter whether or not you’ve been craving it for the past few decades.
If you’re keen on making something that has more of a chicken-like texture, you can also toss seitan (rinsed well and then patted dry with paper towel) in a bit of breadcrumbs, pan-fry, then coat with the sauce. I love seitan in general, though this time I was more in the mood for simple, whole vegetables. Hearty veggies, especially cauliflower and sweet potato, become so flavorful and “meaty” when they’re simply tossed with oil and spices and oven-baked. The key is to bake them at a higher temperature so you really give them a chance to caramelize and a bit browned on the edges. Of course, the secret really is in the sauce with this dish. Imagine General Tso’s with a Korean twist–sweet, spicy, tangy, and completely addicting.
Vegan Korean Fried Chicken
Serves 2 (plus extra sauce)
1/2 head cauliflower, in 1 to 1.5″ pieces
1 medium sweet potato, in chunks
1.5 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp gochujang
1/3 cup ketchup (even though this sounds weird, trust me it’s legit–Koreans love their ketchup!)
6 tbsp mirin, sherry or Marsala wine
1/2 medium to large onion, chopped
1 scallion, chopped (plus more for garnish)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup water
Toasted sesame seeds or chopped peanuts (for garnish)
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or foil.
2. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower chunks and sweet potato chunks with coconut oil and spices, salt and pepper. Spread out on the baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are browned.
3. Meanwhile, put all sauce ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until it becomes thick and syrupy. Take off the heat. Transfer to a blender and blend on low.
4. Toss the vegetables in the sauce (you will have some leftover! yay!) and serve hot.
More vegan Korean food: Bibimbap (Mixed Rice Bowl)
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling