I’m not vegan, but you’d never be able to rip a plate of buffalo cauliflower wings from my hands. It’s one of the greatest modern creations, and I’ve come to you with a suggestion that can make this great thing even better. Improve your vegan buffalo wing game and use this double-fry technique to add extra crunch.
The double fry technique involves frying two times at two different temperatures. The first fry is at a lower heat, about 150°C to 160°C, to begin driving out moisture and ensuring the food cooks through. This fry takes a bit longer, and it varies depending on what you’re frying. Chicken might fry for three minutes, while cauliflower only takes about 90 seconds. The second fry is at a higher temperature, 180°C to 190°C, and is much faster. Other foods that use this crunchy technique are those world-famous chunky Belgian frites and karaage chicken thighs. It’s a surefire way to bring a shattering crunch to your starch-coated fried food, and it works just as well with cauliflower.
You can use any buffalo cauliflower batter you like, but the best starch for this technique is potato starch. Potato starch has the ideal combination of high starch concentration and largest starch granule size. This pairing creates the optimal crunch opportunity. If you can’t find potato starch in the baking aisle of your grocery store, use cornstarch or a combination of cornstarch and flour. (Read here for more details on starch with the karaage method.)
How to double fry buffalo cauliflower wings
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
While the first fry will make the cauliflower crispy and golden, it’s the second fry that transforms the texture to crunchy and the color to a deep bronze. Heat a pot of oil, at least two inches deep, to 160°C. As you fry, keep an eye on the temperature and keep it between 150-160°C.
Batter your cauliflower pieces with a recipe you like, hopefully one that uses potato or cornstarch. Gently lower a few pieces into the hot oil and allow it to fry for 90 seconds to two minutes. Don’t crowd the bites as some batters are prone to clinging if they bump into each other. The coating should be golden brown and crisp. Blot the cauliflower on a paper towel, or an alternative oil blotter, and allow the bites to drain on a metal wire rack. This cooling time is crucial for the cauliflower (chicken, potato, or whatever you’re frying) to send moisture to the surface so the second fry can be effective. Do this with all of the remaining cauliflower.
While the “wings” are cooling on the wire rack, bump up the oil’s temperature to 180°C As you fry, do your best to keep the oil between 170°C to 180°C. Fry the cauliflower bites a second time. This fry will only take a minute or 45 seconds, depending on the size of your cauliflower chunks. The color will be a deeper brown and as soon as you scoop the bite out of the oil you’ll notice the change in texture, even while it’s in the metal strainer. It practically rattles out onto the wire cooling rack. Blot and drain the bites as before. Repeat with all of the cauliflower.
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Once you’re finished frying, toss the cauliflower bites in your sauce of choice. To keep them crispier for longer, serve the sauce on the side for dipping. The cauliflower bites are loud and crunchy, and the potato starch creates the subtle impression that you’ve coated the cauliflower in potato chips. They’re so good it might be hard to share, so make a double batch. In this recipe, I use a Japanese karaage-style marinade for my bites, and the garlic and ginger pairs well with a classic buffalo dipping sauce.
Karaage-style Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” Recipe
- ½ head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- ½ inch fresh ginger, grated
- ½ cup potato starch
- Neutral oil for frying
- Buffalo sauce for dipping
1. In a bowl, stir together the soy sauce, yogurt, sake, sesame seed oil, garlic, and ginger. Toss the cauliflower pieces in the sauce and let it marinate for a half an hour or so, tossing now and again.
2. Put two inches of oil in a pot and heat it to 160°C. Set up a wire rack over a sheet tray nearby with a piece of paper towel on it.
3. When the oil is just about ready, sprinkle the potato starch over the cauliflower and toss it all together until the starch has mostly dissolved into the marinade and the cauliflower is coated. Fry the cauliflower pieces in small batches for 90 seconds to two minutes, making sure they have room so they don’t touch in the oil. They should be golden and crisp. Blot the bites on the paper towel and move them to the wire rack to drain and cool.
4. Once all of the bites have had their first fry, heat the oil to 180°C. Fry all of the bites again, but this time for 45 seconds to one minute. They should be well-browned and noticeably crunchy. Blot and cool the “wings” like before. Serve them immediately, either tossed in sauce or with the buffalo sauce on the side.
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