Gochujang, the fermented Korean hot pepper paste, has gained popularity by way of recipes featuring grilled proteins, like chicken, beef and pork. However, this recipe brings you that umami bite of sweet and spicy flavour with a veggie spin: lightly battered cauliflower popcorn bites. No hard and fast rules apply here, serve this on game night, as an appetizer or side dish.

Korean Gochujang Cauliflower Popcorn

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 tsp vegetable oil (plus more for frying)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp white vinegar or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp water
1 cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup potato starch or cornstarch
¼ cup rice flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup water (approx.)
2 eggs, whisked
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets (8 cups)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Greek yogurt or sour cream for dipping (optional)

Tip: Rice flour and potato starch are common ingredients in a Korean pantry, the combination will lighten and aerate the batter. Look for them in an Asian market or bulk store.

Tip: Gochujang is a fermented Korean hot pepper paste; and while shelf-stable when you purchase it, please refrigerate after opening.

Directions:

1. Heat enough oil in your largest and widest pot to reach 1-inch high over medium to medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 350°F. Don’t have a deep-fry thermometer? Either add a cube of bread to test the oil (it should fry quickly to golden) or dip end of a wooden spoon to see if bubbles start forming.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat 2 tsp oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Stir in gochujang, ketchup, vinegar, honey and water and simmer for 1 minute; set aside.

Related: Eddie Jackson’s Gochujang Short Ribs Are Your New All-Star Dish

3. Whisk flour, potato starch, rice flour, salt and baking soda. Whisk in water and eggs, to make a slightly thickened batter. Add all the cauliflower, stirring to coat; the batter should be just thick enough to coat, while easily dripping off the floret. Add more water if needed.

4. Carefully drop lightly battered cauliflower into the hot oil using a fork, one at a time to achieve popcorn-sized bites (dropping them in groups will create lumps and will not produce a crispy batter).

Tip: Cauliflower is made up of a ton of water and continues to steam when cooked and needs to be fried twice. The first fry steams, while the second fry will lighten and crisp the combination of potato starch and rice flour.

5. Fry, with a spider or slotted spoon, turning until golden and crispy, 2-3 minutes. Drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining cauliflower. Once everything had been fried, fry again until browned and crispy, 3-4 minutes and drain on a rack.

Related: This Korean Sweet and Sour Seaweed Salad is the Perfect BBQ Side Dish

6. Rewarm the sauce until loosened. Transfer half of the cauliflower in a large bowl and drizzle with enough sauce to just lightly coat, tossing quickly. Transfer to a serving plate and repeat with the remaining cauliflower and gochujang sauce mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with sour cream or Greek yogurt if desired.

Tip: Serve at room temperature and avoid reheating in the oven; it will steam and soften the cauliflower.

Like Soo’s fiery gochujang cauliflower popcorn? Try her pork banh mi burgers or asparagus and mushroom udon.