Kung Pao Broccoli has the tongue-tingling, sweet, salty and tangy taste of the original Sichuan chicken dish, but is vegan and full of fiber. A great, silky-sauced side dish, or light main meal with rice.
We’ve got a garden, but I don’t have green fingers. Basically I throw seeds into our back yard raised beds and hope for the best.
I don’t grow vegetables or fruits that need molly coddling. I am rubbish at remembering what needs what, and when. Feeding, pruning, tying up, pricking out. Nah. Chard, kale, peas, rocket, pak choi (okay, I do molly coddle that with a special bug resistant cover) are my fail-safe vegetables. They are hardy enough not just for our temperamental Scottish weather, but also my benign neglect.
Is there such a thing as growing too much broccoli?
But – a recent discovery – I can grow broccoli. And I think I always have been able to. It’s just that until now I have never been patient enough to wait to see if sturdy heads would appear above the absolutely ginormous leaves. This year I did not give up with a sigh and skywards eye-roll, and just dead-head the plants and eat the leaves (delish, by the way; sweet and spicy). Nope, I corralled all of my patience and just let those shade-throwing leaves (in all senses) grow. And, sure enough, tiny little green heads popped up, soaking in the sun and water to grow into proper broccoli heads. All. At. Once.
Oh dear. We couldn’t keep up. Before long the broccoli heads were getting decidedly fluffy, about to flower. So I gave some away; and drove work mad by making a succession of broccoli dishes. I myself had it for every meal.
And, despite the relative dietary imbalance of thrice-daily broccoli, I still love it. Homegrown is so incredibly flavourful that I urge you, if you have a patch big enough to plop down a raised bed, or dig into fertile soil, you must do this for next season. I have in the past successfully grown leggy broccolini. But never the big-headed monsters that most of us grew up loathing, then accepting. If you have broccoli-phobes in the family, grow it if you can.
How to make your broccoli even MORE nutritious
We know broccoli is good for us. But is there a best way to prepare it to get the most out of it? Yes, there is. And it is perfect for this recipe. One of the main beneficial compounds is sulforaphane. It is one that is most enhanced by dicing it really small. Ricing it, if you will. But, even better is this: cut it up and leave it for 30 minutes. Then toss it in your wok to stir fry. This beats boiling, steaming, microwaving, roasting and eating it raw. Isn’t this good news? Of course, eating it any way will give you loads of benefit, but chop, leave, stir fry is my new way to use it. Find out more in this Science Alert article.
If in doubt, Kung Pao it
Regardless of where your broccoli grows, why not Kung Pao it? What I mean by this is adopting – and tweaking – the rather syrupy Sichuan pepper-flecked sweet and tangy sauce, and letting it work its magic on your brassicas. This works especially well with standard shop-bought broccoli. I guarantee that the family-friendly firecracker explosion of flavours from the sauce will more than mask the blandness of any so-so broccoli.
My recipe is a near-cousin of the Sichaun province, global-breakthrough dish, Kung Pao Chicken. But mine is more about fibre and phytonutrient stand-out sulforophane than loads of birdy protein. If you are wanting this to be a filling main meal rather than side dish, add golden cubes of sautéed tofu. Or indeed, chicken or prawns. The cashews I ask for you to use give some protein of course, but won’t leave many of us satisfied unless we eat rather a lot of it.
Kung Pao Broccoli – what’s in it?
The main thing is the sauce. The sweet, hot, sour and salty sauce. You mix it up in a jug and pour it over the almost cooked vegetables, letting it bubble up and coat everything with its impactful taste. And tingle. Yes, tingle. How much tingle is up to you. 😉
Here’s what you need for the sauce:
Light and dark soy sauce – the former is salty so try and get lower-sodium; the dark stuff is great for colour and depth.
Hoisin sauce – if you can find a good brand it will add even more depth, but not necessary if you don’t already have some in your kitchen
Shaoxing wine or dry sherry – I use the latter. Again, flavour, but also balance. If you don’t drink, don’t worry about it
Chinese black vinegar or a good quality balsamic vinegar. I have used both, and in this dish I can’t tell the difference.
Cornflour (cornstarch) – to make a cohesive sauce with a little body to it.
Something sweet for balance – maple syrup, sugar, honey – whatever you like. Go with a touch and add more if needed.
Broccoli – of course! A big one, or two smaller ones. You want about a pound/kilo of useable broccoli.
Carrot – one or two for sweetness, colour and taste
Dried red chillies (optional) – to flavour it but not necessarily add too much heat. Keep them whole and fish them out before serving
Sichuan peppercorns – it ain’t Kung Pao without this ingredient. Tingly on the tongue, fruity and a touch sour, these are not hot peppercorns. Toast them and grind them before adding to the dish. Find these uniquely interesting peppercorns at larger supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. A little goes a long way.
Cashews – you could use peanuts if you like. Roasted and unsalted is my way, but go for salted if your blood pressure can cope!
Looking for more Broccoli Recipes?
Tenderstem Broccoli with Sweet Toasted Sesame Sauce (I learned this in Tokyo!)
PLUS, loads more on my Recipe Index, or by searching “Broccoli” in the search bar to your right.
Like what you are seeing here? Why not follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for social media-only mini recipes and more? And if you aren’t already a subscriber, become one! I promise not to spam you or use your info other than to send you delicious, unique recipes like this every week. Sign up in the side bar, above right. 🙂
Kung Pao Broccoli with Cashews
A vegan hot and sour treatment for broccoli, based on the famous Sichuan dish, Kung Pao Chicken
Stir Fry Sauce
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce lower sodium if you can get it
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp dry sherry Chinese wine/Shaoxing is more authentic
- 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tbsp water optional
- 2 tsp maple syrup or brown sugar
- 1/2 tbsp corn flour cornstarch
The Stir Fry Vegetables
- 1 large broccoli about 400 grams
- tbsp dried Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tbsp high temperature cooking oil I use cold-pressed Scottish rapeseed oil
- 3 garlic cloves grated or minced
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 5 spring onions
- 1 carrot cut into matchsticks or thinly sliced
- 3 dried red chillies optional, to flavour the oil
- 100 g roasted, unsalted cashews I roast for 10 minutes at 180C
First of all cut the broccoli into long, slim pieces. Basically use any of the broccoli that is not woody. The whole plant - including the leaves - is edible and delicious. If at all possible, leave it for 30 minutes before adding it to the dish. This aids tremendously to how much of the key plant compound - sulforaphane - that we can use.
Mix up the stir fry ingredients in a small jug or bowl and set aside.
Heat your wok over a medium high heat and dry toast the Sichuan peppercorns. Decant them into a mortar and grind to a nubbly powder with the pestle. You can leave the peppercorns whole if you wish, but they can be quite overpowering whole.
Heat the oil over a medium flame and add the garlic, ginger, spring onions, carrots and dried chillies, if using. Stir fry for five minutes. Some of you may wish to split the chillies to make the whole dish quite hot. If you leave them whole, they just give a good hint of heat.
Add the broccoli and the King Pao sauce and toss well, turning up the heat so that it bubbles and reduces to a glossy sauce - about three minutes or so. Remove the dried chillies (if used) and add in the toasted cashews. Serve warm as a side dish to a larger meal, or on its own with steamed rice for a light meal.
Main Meal Tweak: add cubed tofu that has first been sautéd in oil until lightly golden. Add this in with the cauliflower after the other vegetables are cooked.
Variations: use cauliflower as the main vegetable; add in sliced bell peppers, sliced leeks; a combination of cauliflower and broccoli
Pin now. Make soon!