This recipe, created by flavor chemist Mariano Gascon, won Best Appetizer in VT’s 2011 Chefs’ Challenge. Gascon knows all about developing snacks and seasonings in a laboratory. “Instead of using onions and garlic, we use chemicals X and Y,” he says. Mariano enrolled in culinary school to understand food from a different perspective, but he still approached his vegan take on kung pao chicken with scientific precision. “I made tons of attempts at the tofu,” he says. “I microwaved it, I baked it, I compressed it, I froze it. It was a project.”
1. To make Sliders: Cut tofu into 8 slices lengthwise; halve slices to make 16 pieces. Transfer to baking dish. Whisk together soy sauce, sugar, oil, and cornstarch in bowl. Pour over tofu, cover, and chill 1 hour.
2. To make Slaw: Whisk together soy sauce, mayonnaise, peanut butter, sugar, vinegar, oil, garlic, pepper, and cayenne (if using) in bowl. Stir in carrots, zucchini, and peanuts. Chill.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Drain tofu, and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes. Flip, and bake 20 to 25 minutes more, or until crispy. Fill buns with 1 tofu slice and 2 Tbs. Slaw.