There is just something disgustingly delicious about sweet-and-sour chicken, that deep-fried, sugar-slathered staple of Asian take-out. The cloying sauce, that crispy-fried breading, those sweet morsels of warm pineapple ... . No matter how bad I know it is for me — and how badly executed the dish usually is — I still manage to crave it regularly.
So I decided to see whether I could do better by creating a similar dish that would satisfy my sweet-and-sour urges without leaving me feeling guilty.
The sauce was easy. Rather than red food coloring and corn syrup, I went with a simple blend of red wine vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce and just enough sugar to strike a pleasant sweet-savory balance.
And of course there was pineapple, which adds plenty of natural sugars, too.
This sauce cooks up on the stovetop in minutes.
But then I flipped things around a bit. Rather than trying to come up with a heathier battered chicken, I decided to make a vegetarian version. I could have gone with tofu, but, meh. It’s hard to get excited about tofu.
Instead, I came up with a flavorful and crunchy almond coating for roasted cauliflower. The florets get dunked in egg whites, then the almond mixture, then are roasted. When the florets come out of the oven, you can either toss them in the sauce, or just drizzle it over them. Add some cashews and you won’t miss your take-out.