1 large cauliflower
2 teaspoons black pepper, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more as needed
½ cup rice wine vinegar
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons raw or light brown sugar
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
3 bay leaves
1 chilli, halved lengthwise
3 scallions, thinly sliced, for serving
Trim leaves and woody stalk from the cauliflower, then cut through the root into eight wedges. Season both sides of each wedge with salt and pepper. Reserve any loose cauliflower pieces.
In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Place one layer of the wedges in the skillet cut-side down and cook without moving them until well browned on one side, three to four minutes. Transfer to a plate and continue until all the cauliflower is seared, adding more oil as needed. Return all the cauliflower to the pan with uncooked side facing down.
Add ¼ cup water, any loose cauliflower pieces, 2 teaspoons black pepper, rice-wine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, bay leaves and chilli. Cover and let simmer over medium heat until the cauliflower is crisp-tender, about five minutes.
Uncover, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook, basting the cauliflower occasionally with the sauce until the cauliflower is tender and the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup, eight to ten minutes.
Serve the cauliflower with plenty of sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.