Priya Konings

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The Dish: Fried cauliflower buns with Japanese mayo, sweet chilli sauce, seasonal pickles, cilantro, and Thai basil

Where to Get It: The Pug, 1234 H St. NE

Price: $7.00

What It Is: A fried cauliflower bao bun where the crispy cauliflower miraculously mimics karaage—Japanese fried chicken. The dish features bouncy bao buns served with chopped pickles, sweet Kewpie mayonnaise sprinkled with togarashi spice, pickled onions, and the key ingredient, fried cauliflower. Diners construct their own buns to taste using the items provided. 

In an effort to make the cauliflower imitate fried chicken, the vegetable is cooked using the same method as karaage. The hunks of cauliflower are battered in a garlicky and sake-infused potato starch batter, fried, and then drenched in a spicy glaze. The final product is delightfully crisp, dripping with sauce, and meaty.

The Story: Toki Underground recently introduced a menu of small snacks at The Pug. One of these snacks is a fried chicken bun. Rather than create a different vegetarian dish, the chefs at Toki Underground decided to create a bun that is identical to the fried chicken bun but with cauliflower instead.

Why Even Meat Eaters Will Like It: Everyone expects to eat the same kind of food at dive bars: nuts, fries, and nachos. At The Pug, you get the chill dive bar atmosphere with food that goes way beyond typical bar fare and is fun to eat.