Besides producing beautiful shapes and textures, spherification techniques can also alter how flavors behave in a dish. Here I’ve created sriracha pearls, which were then dropped into a viscous and sweet glaze over well-seared tofu cubes. Instead of producing an even heat level throughout, these pearls created tiny yet fiery pops of isolated heat in each bite. These pearls can be made beforehand, and stored in cold vegetable oil until ready to use. They just simply need to be rinsed in a bit of cold water first, and will be quite sturdy once formed.
for the sriracha pearls
1/8 cup sriracha
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 gram agar powder
several cups of vegetable oil, placed in the freezer for an hour to chill
an empty tall beer glass, placed in the freezer an hour to chill
for the tofu
1 TB peanut oil
1 block of firm tofu (no need to press it)
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB soy sauce
3 TB mirin
drop of rice vinegar
1 TB brown sugar
1 TB cold water, whisked with 1 tsp cornstarch
black and white sesame seeds, for serving
In a small saucepan, heat the sriracha, sesame oil, broth and agar over medium-low heat until it comes to a small simmer. After 45 seconds, remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two.
Remove the chilled oil and empty glass from the freezer. Place the cold oil into the glass so only and inch of two of space is left at the top. Using a pipette, squeeze bottle or syringe, suck up a tablespoon or two of the mixture. Keeping the dropper very close to the oil, slowly drop it in, and allow the beads to fall to the bottom of the glass. After several beads are created, pour the entire glass through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl, then return the oil back into the glass and repeat. The pearls can then be rinsed in the strainer and stored in water while you make your tofu.
Cut the tofu block into 3 slabs, then half those slabs to make 6 large tofu cubes.
Heat the peanut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Place the cubes into the hot pan. They will sputter a bit when they hit the pan. Allow the brown on each side for 4-5 minutes each. You may need to add a little more oil to the pan during browning time if the cubes start to stick. Once they are fully browned, transfer them to another plate while you make the glaze.
In a separate clean saucepan, heat sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Stir well, then add in the vinegar, then sprinkle the brown sugar over the top. Add in the water and cornstarch mixture, stir until thickened, then remove immediately from the heat.
Spoon the sauce over the top of the tofu cubes, then garnish with the sriracha pearls and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.