Vegetarian K.F.C (Korean Fried Cauliflower)

Kimchi has been creeping up everywhere lately - on breakfast menus, in your burger, in your grilled cheese, in your pies and even smothered on your hot chips - you can't escape it. Of course kimchi is no newfangled thang. It's been part of the Korean diet since the beginning of time, and was most likely popularised in the Western world eight years ago by Roy Choi and his Korean taco truck, Kogi, where he serves kimchi quesadillas. Like pulled pork, chipotle mayo and the raw food movement, New Zealand is about five years behind the curve on this trend. But finally, the kimchi craze has reached our shores. Incidentally, cauliflower has also been enjoying a moment in the spotlight in recent times, so without even knowing it this sandwich is one trendy little dish. 

Personally, I have always loved kimchi and would take it over a bowl of nuts as a bar snack any day. Much to my boyfriend's disapproval, I have been known to sit on the couch and tuck in to a container, straight from the tub as if it's ice cream. As well as being delicious, kimchi is also good for you. I'm not going to pretend to know about the specifics, but something about fermented foods and probiotics and gut health. I'll leave that to the health and wellness bloggers of this world.

While I was writing this I started thinking...has anyone ever put kimchi on a pizza? It sounds just crazy enough to be true. A quick google search confirmed that yes, kimchi on pizza is a thing, and I'll be trying it tonight. I also learned that South Koreans consume 18 kilograms of kimchi per person annually. And that they attribute their industrious energy as a people, and subsequent rapid economic growth, to eating so much of this national dish. Fun kimchi facts. 

The batter used for the cauliflower here is like a tempura, super crispy from the addition of vodka and the corn starch. I got the recipe here, which suggests you cover the florets in a Korean buffalo wing style sauce after frying. I opted not to do this cause I thought it would be too sloppy, but in hindsight it would've added another layer of flavour. Which is never a bad thing. Don't be afraid to swap out the cauliflower for chicken, pork, or beef. Perhaps you would like to marinate it in a little mix of fresh ginger, soy and gochujang beforehand? Couldn't hurt. 

Vegetarian K.F.C sandwich 

Makes 4 

 

For the cauliflower 

Vegetable oil for frying (I shallow fried in about an inch or two) 

1/2 cup of cornstarch

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/3 cup of toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup of cold water

1/2 cup of vodka

1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets

2 teaspoons of salt

Method

  •  Preheat oil in a heavy based pot or wok.
  • Combine cornstarch, flour, baking powder, salt and sesame seeds in a large bowl and mix until combined. Add water and vodka, and whisk until a smooth batter is formed, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water if batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of thin paint.
  • Add cauliflower to batter. Working one at a time, lift one piece and allow excess batter to drip off. Carefully lower into hot oil. Repeat with remaining cauliflower until wok or pot is full. Do not over crowd.
  • Fry, using a metal slotted spoon to rotate and agitate pieces as they cook until evenly golden brown and crisp all over, about six minutes.
  • Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and season immediately with salt.
  • Keep warm while you fry the remaining cauliflower.
 

For the rest 

1 large or 2 small soft ciabatta loaves

1 cup of mayo 

1 cup of kimchi (I use Woori brand, which is made in Waitakere.) 

3 cups of finely sliced/shredded white cabbage and carrot (I get lazy on it and use pre-cut slaw in a bag. Just the white cabbage and carrot kind. It works a charm for sandwiches).

A sprinkle of black and white sesame seeds 

2 spring onions, sliced  thinly lengthways and shocked in ice cold water so they curl up

Asian hot sauce of your choice 

method 

  • Place a sieve over a bowl and drain your kimchi, reserving the liquid that comes out. Really squeeze it all out of there. 
  • Mix the kimchi juice with your mayo until combined. Add a dash of hot sauce if you wish to bump up the spice. 
  • Finely chop the strained kimchi and mix with your shredded cabbage, carrot and some kimchi mayo. 
  • Cut your ciabatta in to four equal sized pieces, and cut each piece in half lengthwise. Toast. 
  • Spread all your bread generously with kimchi mayo. 
  • On the bottom half of your bread layer your fried cauliflower, followed by a squirt of hot sauce (if desired), then your kimchi slaw, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, a few spring onions, and finally the top half of your bread.