Sweet and Hot Crispy Pepper Tofu
Crispy Hot Pepper Tofu Recipe Serves 3-4
If I mention to friends that I am having tofu for dinner, more often that not I hear, “Ew, tofu, it’s so bland.” A bit harsh, but my friends do have a point. Tofu is one of those ingredients that definitely needs a bit of help. Sure, it is low in fat, high in isoflavones, is a complete vegetarian protein and fortified with calcium, but it doesn’t taste of much. To me that is actually a virtue. How’s that, you ask? Well, its perfect blandness, as well as its porosity (I’m really selling it, aren’t I?), means that it readily soaks up marinades and spices like no other protein. It doesn’t assert itself and is happy to be the vehicle for more muscular flavours.
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi Recipe
I’m always on the lookout for great tasting tofu recipes and here I have adapted a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe that stars this much-maligned ingredient. The original recipe would be too punchy for many tastes (8 chillies,12 garlic cloves and 5 tbsp pepper) and much too high in fat and salt to be healthy – however delicious. I’ve also ramped up the fibre and vegetable content with some aubergines and shiitake mushrooms. It is super easy to prepare and tastes sublime with turmeric scented basmati rice and steamed Savoy cabbage. Turmeric and black pepper are potent phytochemical partners.
- 400g firm tofu, pressed gently between paper towels to remove any water
- 2 tbsp coarsely ground peppercorns (I use half black and half Vietnamese, but all black is fine)
- 4 tbsp cornflour, to coat the tofu
- 1 aubergine, cut into 3 x 2 cm pieces
- 3 ½ tbsp rapeseed or plain olive oil, divided
- 2 red onions, peeled, halved and sliced
- 2 fresh red chillies (mildish ones)
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh gingerroot
- 60g shitake mushrooms, sliced (half a supermarket pack)
- 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari sauce
- 2 tbsp dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 12 spring onions/scallions, trimmed and cut into 3 cm pieces
Slick a baking tray with ½ tbsp of oil and place in a 200C oven while you prepare the tofu pieces. Pour four tablespoons of corn flour into a plastic bag, along with ½ of the crushed peppercorns. Cut the tofu into 3 x 2 cm pieces and add half of them to the bag, close the bag tightly and gently shake to coat the tofu.
Remove the tofu, tap off the excess corn flour and place onto a plate while you coat the rest of the tofu. Pop the tofu onto the heated tray and bake for 15 minutes, turning the pieces over after 10 minutes. After you have coated the tofu, toss the aubergine slices in one tablespoon of oil and arrange them on another baking tray; bake for 15 minutes, until softened and starting to colour.
In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining oil and add the onions, chillies, garlic and ginger; saute slowly over a low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next add the shiitake mushrooms, soy sauces, sherry, sugar and the remaining crushed peppercorns. Give it a good stir. When heated through add the tofu, aubergine and spring onions and cook for a further couple of minutes. The sticky shiny sauce should coat all of the ingredients; add a little water if you think it needs it – but as little as possible in order to keep the stickiness.
Serve with baked turmeric rice and a steamed green vegetable such as cabbage or pak choi.