15 November 2010

Tofu, Spice, Everything Nice

When I feel like I'm running low on novel meal ideas, I often seek inspiration from other cuisines.  If I find something both palatable and already suitable to my lifestyle needs--namely, affordable and vegan--the task of feeding myself is that much easier.  But if a particular dish strikes my fancy while requiring a few substitutions or alterations, so be it; I'm fine with flexing some creative muscle, and in fact, a bit of challenge is what makes cooking continually enjoyable.

When required to improvise, especially when it involves preparing a dish I have not yet encountered, I find certain staple items in my kitchen useful for completing the task without straying uncomfortably far from my comfort zone.  A recent foray into Korean cuisine illustrated the usefulness of stocking my kitchen with versatile, varied ingredients.  Because I have enjoyed Korean food on only a handful of occasions, I still know very little about it through first-hand experience.  So when I found discovered this recipe for Fire Chicken, I was both intrigued and a little hesitant about applying a vegan touch to the dish; while the components seemed simple enough to arrange (even with a couple substitutions), admittedly, I worried a bit that I was approaching the dish too casually--that the one-to-one exchange of my kitchen staples--tofu for chicken, sake for cheongju rice wine, brown rice syrup and agave for honey--for what was actually required was too simple, even inappropriate for achieving the proper textures and flavors intended.  But the combination of pear and kochujang (Korean chili sauce)--sweet with spicy--compelled me to move forward with what I had on hand to make something that I hoped would suit my tastes.
Fortunately, the attempt resulted in a pleasantly sweet-savory-spicy tofu dish.  Because I was mindful of the blandness of unseasoned tofu, I diluted the marinade in order to avoid over-salting the tofu, so the pieces turned out with just the perfect amount of seasoning.  Although I was fine with the overall results, the texture of the dish could improve with either a firmer tofu (super-firm, rather than the water-packed firm tofu I used would be ideal), seitan, or tempeh.  The pear-based sauce is actually quite tasty and would probably taste delicious broiled on just about anything that could use a bit of sweet heat.

11 comments:

  1. This sounds delightful, and I might have all the ingredients (sake included) to make it!!! Thanks for sharing, Tiffany. I LOVE just about anything Asian-inspired.

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  2. Looks great! I love kochujang!

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  3. The texture of the tofu looks amazing. How was it cooked?

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  4. That looks like a yummy dinner!

    I agree that looking at the cuisine of other countries is inspiring and you're always guaranteed something different!

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  5. Yum, that came out delicious looking! Now, I'm going to have to try more Korean inspired type of foods. :-)

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  6. Wow, it sure looks like you're doing something right! Re the super-firm tofu, in my experience the softer the tofu you can get away with without the dish actually falling apart, the better it tastes. Asian pear, eh? Hmmmm....

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  7. When I first saw those fantastic looking tofu slices I thought they must be fried. I'm not big on fried stuff so I was excited to see that they're not! I'll have to start a hunt for some of the more exotic ingredients on the list.
    Looks like you executed a great vegan adaptation!

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  8. wow, that sounds amazing. A pear based sauce???? sign me up! My bf is crazy for pears, so I'll give this a try. thanks for including the recipe link!

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  9. wow, that sounds amazing. A pear based sauce???? sign me up! My bf is crazy for pears, so I'll give this a try. thanks for including the recipe link!

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  10. Wow, it sure looks like you're doing something right! Re the super-firm tofu, in my experience the softer the tofu you can get away with without the dish actually falling apart, the better it tastes. Asian pear, eh? Hmmmm....

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  11. When I first saw those fantastic looking tofu slices I thought they must be fried. I'm not big on fried stuff so I was excited to see that they're not! I'll have to start a hunt for some of the more exotic ingredients on the list.
    Looks like you executed a great vegan adaptation!

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Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)