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Spicy cauliflower over rice - addictive without MSG

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Occasionally, we run into something great by accident. I have recently had such a eureka moment when I intended to cook bibimbap on a weekend, using a different combination of vegetables. New ingredients were cauliflower and mini napa cabbages.

When I tasted this new version of bibimbap for the first time, I was blown away by a perfect combination of spiciness, sweetness from vegetables (cauliflower, napa cabbages, onions, and carrots), and savory umami flavors from mushrooms, seafood, soy sauce, and garlic.

How this dish tastes reminds me of a Korean dish called "Jjamppong". Although Jjamppong was inspired by a Chinese dish, it has been tailored to what Koreans would find tasty. It is a popular dish served at Chinese restaurants in Korea. Jjamppong strikes all three notes that Koreans love: spicy seafood noodles. Since it is not easy for me to go to Chinese restaurants run by Koreans in the US, I was so thrilled to find a key to the Jjamppong flavor!

As we are getting close to the end of 2019, this dish can serve as a somewhat exotic food that carries Asian flavors at your New Year's holiday party. If you like Korean or Chinese food, why not challenge yourself to try this simple, delicious one-pot meal that also boasts healthy ingredients?

Spicy seafood vegetables over rice

If you are new to cauliflower, this dish can be a good introduction. If you happen to like cruciferous vegetables such as cabbages, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower, congratulations! You have been benefitting from the powerful anti-oxidants of cruciferous vegetables, which slow down the growth of cancer cells and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Cauliflower stands out of its pack because of its high choline content. We need enough choline to produce neurotransmitters (acetylcholine) and to transport fat (triglycerides) out of the liver via very-low-density lipoproteins, of which phosphatidylcholine is a component. Cauliflower also makes it easy for us to lose extra weight because it is water-dense, rich in fiber, and low in calories.

It is so easy to cook cauliflower. You can simply stir-fry it with curry spices or gochujang in this recipe. Let's jump right in.

Ingredients for 4-6 servings

Half a sweet onion (thinly sliced)

One medium carrot (julienned)

2 sticks of celery (finely chopped)

Half head of cauliflower (cut into small florets)

Half pound of Napa cabbages (cut into bite-sized pieces)

Half pound of baby portobello mushrooms (sliced; you can also use Shiitake mushrooms instead)

A red bell pepper (thinly sliced)

A quarter-pound of seafood mixture (chopped squid, chopped octopus, scallops, mussels, and shrimps; you can buy a package of uncooked, snap-frozen seafood mixture at any Asian grocery market.)

Scallions (cut into 2-inch pieces)

Cooked rice

Korean red chili sauce that mimics gochujang

2-3 tsp of Korean red pepper powder. It is important to use coarsely ground red pepper for gochujang (see the picture below for an example). You can keep it in the refrigerator for a long time.

1 tsp of fermented soy sauce. My favorite is Sempio naturally brewed soy sauce (see its picture below). Fermented soy sauce has layers of deep flavors that chemically produced soy sauce (most soy sauce belong to this category) does not have. Please make sure to read the label before purchasing a bottle of soy sauce. Wondering about its shelf-life? Because it is too salty, microbes cannot grow in it. I keep it on the shelf for over a year.

1 tsp of sesame oil

1 tsp of finely chopped garlic

1 tsp of ginger powder

1 Tsp of water


The first thing to do is to make the red chili sauce by mixing all the listed ingredients above in a small mixing bowl and set it aside.

Next, you should defrost the seafood mixture by taking a portion out of the package and immersing it in water. Now it is time to cut all the other vegetables as specified above.

It may take a while to prepare for cauliflower florets. You can cut them off of a head of cauliflower. Don't throw out its stem. You can slice them thinly. If you stir-fry them, cauliflower stems are just as delicious as its florets.

If you are done with chopping and slicing, you are ready to roll now. Heat up a stir-fry pan over medium-high heat with one teaspoon of oil on the pan.

Once the pan is hot enough, stir-fry the sliced onion first. When they become somewhat translucent, add the julienned carrots to the pan. Stir-fry them for a minute or so. Now add cauliflower, celery, and Napa cabbages to the pan. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt over the vegetable mixture, mix everything well, and cover the pan. Lower the heat to the medium level and let the water coming out of vegetables steam them for two minutes.

While steaming the vegetables in the pan, rinse and drain the seafood mixture to remove excess water from it.

Open the lid and raise the heat to the medium-high level. Add the sliced mushrooms, red bell pepper, and half a teaspoon of salt to the vegetable mixture in the pan. Stir-fry it until the mushrooms become cooked down and add the seafood mixture to the pan. Continue to stir-fry everything for one or two minutes until shrimps turn pink. Turn off the heat, add the red chili sauce and chopped scallions to the pan, and mix everything well. Season the final mixture with salt and pepper to your taste. Because much water will come out of Napa cabbages, you will end up with a very tasty broth in the finished dish.

Place a portion of cooked rice in a deep serving bowl and serve the vegetable/seafood mixture over rice. I like to add a tablespoon of the broth in the finished dish to the serving bowl. Then, mix everything well in a bowl. Voila! You got yourself spicy seafood vegetables over rice, which I think is quite close to "jjamppongbap (짬뽕밥)".

This dish is as addictive as MSG, which is achieved with 100% healthy ingredients. Please share your thoughts on how you like the flavors of this dish in the comments below.

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