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.