This vegetarian black pepper tofu recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty. When Plenty, a vegetarian cookbook, first came out, it caused a huge stir because of the wonderful recipes. The book won numerous awards.
I’ve read the book from cover to cover, and found it amazing because, although there is no meat, the recipes seem so rich in flavors. I want to cook so many dishes. Also: the recipes are good for home cooks. (Don’t you hate cook books that give long, complicated recipes with hard-to-get ingredients?)
I chose to feature this recipe of black pepper tofu because a Singaporean’s kitchen would have all the ingredients already. I also note the irony of learning a Chinese dish from an Israeli chef.
In Ottolenghi’s original recipe, he seems to treat all ingredients as main players. For instance, he calls for 12 shallots, and 8 red chillis. In my adaptation, I prefer to highlight the tofu, and cut down on others; the tofu is my main star. I also want colors to pop, so instead of stir-frying the chilli, I add the chilli at the last possible moment.
800g tau kwa (firm tofu)
50g unsalted butter
6 shallots, thinly sliced
4 red chilli, thinly sliced (more if you like it spicy)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp black pepper (more if you like it peppery)
6 stalks of green onions / spring onions
1. Dice the tofu into large cubes, and dust with corn flour. Heat a pan with 0.5cm layer of oil over medium heat. Fry the tofu until they are golden and have a nice crust. Put tofu on a paper towel to drain the oil.
2. Remove oil and crumbs from pan, but don’t need to wash it. Melt butter over medium-low fire in the pan. Add shallots, garlic, and ginger, until you can smell an aroma.
3. Work quickly now. Turn the fire to medium, or medium-high. Add in the tofu, soy sauces, sugar, black pepper, and stir-fry thoroughly till the tofu is warm. Off the fire, and throw in green onions and red chilli.
Serve with rice if desired.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.