Roasted Cauliflower from YEW at the Four Seasons Hotel, 791 West Georgia Street, $17
This roasted cauliflower salad is featured on YEW's vegan menu and is an amazing vegetarian option that's not only beautiful and flavourful, but nutritionally sound with multiple sources of protein. An elegant yet filling meal, this salad is vibrant with colour and texture. Nestled among the cauliflower florets, you'll find two kinds of garbanzo beans (yellow and green), a generous sprinkling of raw cashews and bright, fresh orange segments, all on a bed of soft butter lettuce.
This is the kind of vegan dish that won't make you feel left out or look out of place against any other order at your table. It's beautiful, hearty, filling and absolutely delicious.
Bangalore Hash with Cauliflower "Hollandaise" from The Union, 219 Union Street, $15
Rumoured to have the best breakfast hash in Vancouver, the secret to The Union's Bangalore Hash might very well be the cauliflower sauce. A lighter replacement to traditional Hollandaise, executive chef Lisa Henderson created the perfect topper to this fragrantly spiced melange of roasted vegetables.
Made even more delicious once the poached eggs are broken, the cauliflower sauce beautifully balances the curry spices that dominate the mound of potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, squash and chick peas underneath. Already the top-selling brunch at The Union, this hearty, Southeast Asian-inspired dish is well on its way to becoming a Vancouver classic.
Cauliflower, Spinach, Onions and Potato Pakoras from Rangoli, 1488 West 11th Ave, $12
On a menu amongst other spectacular dishes, these cauliflower pakoras are Rangoli's best-selling appetizer. Unlike traditional Indian pakoras that usually incorporate finely minced vegetables, these come out from the kitchen with wild, crispy tentacles protruding from orbs of chunky vegetables held loosely together by deliciously fried batter that's seasoned with green chilies, red cayenne, turmeric, mango powder and cumin.
Served with a side of mint mango chutney that packs a kick, and a bowl of yellow lentil dahl (another atypical presentation for pakoras), these parcels could very easily serve as a filling main entree for one. The dahl is fragrant and flavourful and can be used as a dip for the pakoras or eaten in-between bites. Just make sure to eat it.
Cauliflower Steak from Pourhouse, 162 Water Street, $22
By far the most striking presentation of cauliflower on this list, this dish from Pourhouse in Gastown presents an entire "steak" of cauliflower. The steak is first sous-vide to ensure even, thorough heating, then is seared in butter on both sides so the cauliflower comes out rich, caramelised and perfectly done. It's seasoned simply with thyme and is nestled on a bed of stewed Beluga lentils atop a generous pool of piquant Romesco sauce, crowned with crispy fried kale. The sauce adds a high level of brightness and acidity, perfect for cutting through the buttery cauliflower.
An extremely popular dish at Pourhouse, even among non-vegetarians, this is a beautiful dish that's also extremely filling and gloriously flavourful.
Najib's Special from Nuba, available at all locations, $9.75
Possibly the first cauliflower dish in Vancouver to reach stratospheric stardom, Najib's Special at Nuba is a beloved, local gem. Named after owner Victor Bouzide's father, Najib, this dish was one of Bouzide's grandmother's Lebanese specialties and whenever she made it, she put some aside, "special for Najib" before it was all gobbled up by the rest of the family. It was his father's favourite and now it's one of ours.
Simply prepared, this crispy, salty, lemony cauliflower is deep fried and plated with a side of tahini and mint. Perfection.
Oven-roasted Cauliflower from Nightingale, 1017 West Hastings Street, $12
This cauliflower dish is meant for sharing but that's unlikely to happen after the first first bites. Roasted in Nightingale's open-fire oven, the cauliflower florets are beautifully caramelised and perfectly balanced with a topping of tangy, bright harissa. A generous smattering of toasted sunflower seeds adds texture and crunch (and protein).
Made with local, organic cauliflower, this dish elegantly represents local produce and talent. So go ahead and order two.
"KFC" (Korean fried cauliflower) Bar Bites from Hawksworth, 801 West Georgia Street, $12
Inspired by street food after a trip to Hong Kong, Chef David Hawksworth introduced these battered cauliflower bites to his menu. But before they were a menu item, they were actually served as a side to the scallop entrée. Customers raved and requested more so often that they were finally introduced at Hawksworth as a stand-alone bar item.
Battered, fried, drizzled with a Korean gochujang-based sauce and topped with micro-cilantro and candied sesame seeds, this tangy, zippy, mildly spicy dish has become a bar favourite. And because we eat with our eyes, many customers mistake these for chicken bites at first, but then continue eating them because they're just that scrumptious.
Cauliflower Tacos from Tacofino Commissary, 2327 East Hastings Street, $6
"These tacos are the funniest cauliflower dish in Vancouver," declares Paul Mari, assistant general manager at Tacofino Commissary. "It fits this neighbourhood." Take that as a compliment, East Villagers.
Funny? Yes. But so, so delicious. Leave it to the taco geniuses at Tacofino to make this dish a hit in Vancouver. Right behind their beloved fish tacos, this is their second-best selling taco. Made with locally sourced cauliflower, the large chunky florets are first pickled then flash-fried and sprinkled with a spicy fish sauce. The zippy flavours are enhanced by a couple of crispy onion tempura spears, salsa fresca, cilantro and luscious crema. A squeeze of fresh lime makes it perfection. Available only at the Commissary on East Hastings.
"Crack Salad" from Le Tigre Food Truck, $8
Le Tigre's cauliflower salad is so good, a customer during the early days kept calling it "crack" and it stuck. The "Crack Salad" is now one of the food truck's top sellers and features cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, shredded cabbage, capers, chilies, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and is topped with shatteringly crisp deep-fried kale. Sous chef Sandy Chen good-naturedly laughs as she recounts all the customers who claim to be addicted to it. Then quickly, soberly adds, "But there's no cocaine in it."
For $8, I wouldn't think so. But it really is quite more-ish. The chefs buy their produce two or three times a week at local farmers markets to keep things fresh and to local. I recommend using chopsticks over a fork, so you can keep stirring things around and nimbly pick up the yummy bits of capers and cabbage that tend to sink to the bottom. Only available at their food truck (not at Torafuku, sorry).
Cauliflower Polpette & Romesco from Ask for Luigi, 305 Alexander Street, $10
Polpette are generally a type of meatball, but at Ask for Luigi, they're made with cauliflower. The chefs steam small florets and mix them with eggs, Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs, then fry these dumpling-esque orbs into golden deliciousness. Despite all the ingredients just listed, the polpette are impossibly delicate and fluffy, with a thin, crispy exterior. There are four per serving, nestled in a shallow pool of smoky romesco sauce, topped with fresh micro-basil and fried flat parsley, and decorated with a ring of Marcona almonds. Eat the garnish with your polpette; it adds a nice earthy element to the dish.
Vancouver's love affair with cauliflower continues to blossom
You are never going to convince me that cauliflower can replace rice or makes an even half-decent pizza crust, but cauliflower in its own right is wholly delicious and incredibly versatile. There's no need to force it into something it's not when it's so amazing served as chunky, glorious florets (or steaks... keep reading!).
Several dishes in this veggie-loving town have hit cult status and we've selected our 10 favourite. But don't be limited by this list! There are plenty of other places that couldn't be included (like The Acorn and Espana) simply because they change up their menus weekly to keep things super fresh.
Fried, seared, marinated, crispy, saucy—click through for the top cauliflower dishes in Vancouver...
Catherine is a lifestyle writer, specializing in travel, style, food and beauty. You can read more of her work in WestWorld, Real Weddings, AsiaSpa, Darpan, Wine Enthusiast and others. Follow her on social (Instagram, Snapchat & Twitter) @TSEwords.