This freaking killer meal comes from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, but has been adulterated by me, mostly by simplifying the sauce, using only a single type of soy sauce instead of three. You do what you like, and if you have all three, knock your socks off. I’ll go into more detail when I go over the recipe. For now, all you really need to know is that
1. I don’t really like tofu all that much.
2. This is one of my favorite meals in the world.
There’s lots of prep involved, but the meal itself is very simple, there’s almost nothing to it. Which only reveals the genius in it. This is spicy and sweet and fragrant and unctuous and wild. It makes you want to rub it all over your body.
Okay, so, here we go.
Black Pepper Tofu (adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi)
2 14 oz packages of firm, fresh tofu
Cornflour, to dust the tofu
Vegetable oil, for frying
butter (1 stick) YES!!!
12 small shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 red chillies, thinly sliced
12 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp chopped ginger
4 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
3 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar (superfine sugar)
16 small, thin spring onions, cut into segments a half inch long
rice for serving- i used brown jasmine, which was nutty and flavorful. white jasmine might be better. you use what you like.
Cut the tofu into one inch blocks and toss them in cornflour, shaking off the excess. Pour in enough oil to come half an inch up the sides of a large frying pan, and bring up to frying heat. Fry the tofu in batches in the oil, turning the pieces as you go. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to a paper towel.
Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan and throw in the butter. Once it has melted, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 15 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the contents of the pan are shiny and totally soft. While you wait, crush the peppercorns, using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. They should be quite coarse.
When the shallots and chillies are soft, add the soy sauces and the sugar, stir, then stir in the crushed pepper. Warm the tofu in the sauce for about a minute, then add the spring onion and stir through. Serve hot with steamed rice.
What could be simpler?
First things first:
Back to the base for debrief and cocktails!
Lemon Mint Mango Sling
2 0z. carbonated lemon drink
2 0z. mango nectar
1.5 oz frozen vodka
1 0z. simple sugar
combine, muddle, stir, enjoy.
Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Okay, so take the tofu out of the package, rinse it, pat it dry, and lay it out on some paper towels. Cover with more paper towels, and put a heavy cast iron skillet on top to press the water out of the blocks of tofu. When you’re ready to cook, your tofu will be ready. The more moisture you can get out of the tofu, the better it will cook up. Change paper towels once or twice if you like.
Chop up your veggies. Get ‘em all together. This is the hard part.
See how easy that was?
A note on the chilies. I didn’t have any fresh ones, so I took my bag of dried chilies and put a handful of them into a bowl of warm water for fifteen minutes. I sliced them and rinsed them in the bowl under flowing water to let the seeds drift away (mostly).
Look at all that garlic and ginger!!!
Cube the pressed tofu and dredge each piece in corn starch. I do each piece separately so I can ensure good coverage and shake off the excess, which will cloud and dirty your oil if you don’t do it. Get the oil nice and hot, and fry up a batch at a time. As the oil gets hotter and hotter, moderate the flame and also you can fill the pan with more tofu to bring the temp down and keep the oil from scorching. Don’t rush this. Don’t take the tofu out until they are browned and golden and crisp. Wait longer than you want. Take ‘em out and drain them on a paper grocery bag.
That’s what I’m talking about!
Okay, time to get crazy. Throw you a stick of butter in your pan. Melt it. Toss in your ginger and garlic. Let that go a few minutes to soften up and get golden. Then add your scallions.
This is starting to smell good now.
Add your chilies and let this simmer for fifteen minutes or so, until everything is softened up.
This is a few minutes shy of ready.
Now work on your sauce and grind up your peppercorns.
So, where Yotam calls for light soy sauce and sweet soy sauce and regular soy sauce, I just used a bunch of regular soy sauce and added a couple of tablespoons of molasses. And don’t use a mortar and pestle for the peppercorns. Use a grinder, way easier.
Now, just add the sauce and the peppercorns to the pan, stir in your tofu and the scallions, and when it’s all gooey and warm, throw it on some rice and go to town.
Get ready for the raves!
It might be bragging to say so, but the woman on the verge said that this was her very favorite meal I’ve ever made for her.
Run and tell that, homeboy.
This serves four easily. Don’t try to save it, eat it all.
I served this with some of the kimchi I made yesterday, and a batch of David’s roasted brussels sprouts, which deserve a post of their own. They are phenomenal.
Seriously, who knew you could do this? Just get in the kitchen and work a little bit and come out with something that makes you feel like your sorry life is really worth living, if only so you can eat some more really good food! It is crazy.
It’s like being able to make my own crack.
Only tastier and it takes longer to kill you and it doesn’t fry your brain and the cops don’t toss your ride looking for brussels sprouts and tofu, man.