Black Pepper Tofu

Tofu! Though not at its most virtuous. We fry it up and cover it in a blend of three soy sauces. That sounds fancy, getting three kinds of sauce for this. But the shopping trip was fun, and the meal was incredible. We’ve had it twice this weekend! The sauce is rich, fiery as promised, and wonderful on some fluffy basmati rice. Plus, it’s a fairly simple recipe to follow.

Publix only had low sodium and regular soy sauce when I needed sweet, light and dark. So off we went to Oceanic Market near downtown Tampa.

This store had a lot of other great stuff, too. Recipes posted on the walls next to the sauces. A bunch of interesting soy drinks and produce. We ended up picking up the tofu and everything else here, too.

Okay, lots of great candy, too. We couldn’t resist. If you’re wondering about chocolate pandas vs. chocolate koalas, well, the pandas win for cuteness and koalas for taste. Ha. The Hello Kitty marshmallows will be a V-day gift for Lila, my youngest sister. Now back to the recipe…

These sauces are all surprisingly different. The sweet one is of course sweet and very thick. The dark one is salty and tastes familiar. The light sauce is less in your face.

Using the big cutting board that takes up nearly all of the counter space!

Here’s my work station. Underneath the book and the paper towels is the star of this show. I like to press the tofu to release some of the water while I’m cutting up the vegetables and setting up the rice cooker. Just wrap the tofu in paper towels and put a heavy book on it.

I ended up with 24 cubes of tofu. I coated them in cornstarch 12 at a time so the dusty tofu doesn’t start sticking to the cutting board while you wait to fry.

Do the tofu in a couple batches or so to avoid overcrowding the skillet. Be careful not to let these get too dark. It’s not a terrible thing, but it just gets a little too crunchy. All you need is a golden brown crust.

Those two on the bottom left are just about right.

This recipe calls for what looks like a lot of butter. Just go with it. It makes the combination of ginger, garlic and shallots smell even more amazing. Get your nose close to that skillet. The aroma is incredible.

Green onions thrown in! Done! A warning: This is pretty spicy. Maybe you should keep a glass of milk nearby…

Finally, we can eat.

black pepper tofu

serves 2, adapted from “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi

  • 15 ounces firm tofu
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • cornstarch to dust the tofu
  • 5ish tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • crushed red pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed (or minced)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger (any ginger you don’t use will keep in the freezer)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely crushed black peppercorns (use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder)
  • 8 small and thin green onions, cut into 1  inch segments
  • basmati rice (optional)

On a large cutting board, arrange your shallots, ginger, garlic and green onions. Drain the package of tofu, and wrap the block in a couple of paper towels. Press the tofu with something heavy. A book works well.

Thinly slice the shallots. Chop the ginger. Mince or crush the garlic. Cut the green onions into 1 inch segments. Now might be a good time to set up the basmati rice in the rice cooker.

Pour vegetable oil into a cast iron skillet. A half-inch or so will do it. Turn it up to medium-high heat. Cut the tofu into 1 x 1 inch cubes. Take half of the tofu (12 cubes) and coat them in cornstarch. Shake off the excess. Use tongs to put the tofu in the skillet once the oil is hot enough. (Usually a drop of water or a breadcrumb that sizzles in the oil tells you it’s good to go). Let the tofu fry until golden brown on one side before flipping them over. Once they’re done, let them cool off on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the other 12 cubes. A splatter guard for the oil was helpful here.

Carefully pour the hot oil into another small pot to cool off before throwing it out. Bring the burner down to a low heat. Use a paper towel to clean out the skillet, and give it a minute away from the heat. Put the skillet back on the burner and melt the butter in the skillet. Add shallots, ginger, garlic and a pinch or so of crushed red pepper. Turn it up to low-medium heat and let everything in the skillet get soft and aromatic for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Stir in the soy sauce and the sugar. Add the black pepper. Add the tofu and stir it around for a minute to coat with the sauce and get it warm. Add the green onions. Serve with plenty of basmati rice.

Note: Yotam Ottolenghi makes this recipe to serve four, so feel free to double these amounts. Also, he uses fresh fairly mild red chiles rather than crushed red pepper. I didn’t go for this because I had trouble finding them, and I’m no expert in picking the right chiles. (Not yet!) And this comes on the heels of making a way, way too spicy pork dish because we used the wrong peppers.



13 thoughts on “Black Pepper Tofu

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