I’m always secretly a tiny bit relieved when people tell me they don’t like tofu, as it simply means there’s more for me. Every time I go to my local Tesco Metro I panic that there won’t be any tofu left, but I may be overestimating its appeal in my area. But it baffles me, too – how could anyone dislike it? It’s a flavour sponge! Unless it’s served plain, which would be absurd, then it should be full of the flavour of whatever it’s been marinated or fried in.
I never serve tofu when I cook for family or friends, wary of how it might be received. But this is a recipe I feel confident enough to share because I refuse to accept that anyone could dislike it. It’s packed with peppery goodness, the edges are beautifully crisp, it’s simply amazing.
Black Pepper Tofu
Serves 4, slightly adapted from Plenty
800g firm tofu
cornflour for dusting
vegetable oil for frying
a knob of margarine
8 shallots, chopped
3-4 red chillies, finely sliced
8 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
3 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
generous pinch of sugar
5 tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely crushed with a pestle and mortar
bunch spring onions, chopped into 3cm lengths
1. Prepare the tofu first: drain it, wrap it in kitchen roll and weigh it down with a book or similar heavy item for about 15 minutes. Then unwrap it and cut it into smallish chunks.
2. Coat the tofu pieces in cornflour, shaking off the excess.
3. Heat a 5mm layer of oil in a large frying pan. Carefully add the tofu pieces and fry them for 5-10 minutes, turning frequently, until they have a golden crust.
4. Remove the tofu to kitchen paper to drain. Empty the pan of oil, wipe it clean and return it to the hob.
5. Melt the margarine and gently fry the shallots, garlic, ginger and chillies for 7 minutes or so.
6. Add the soy sauces, sugar and pepper and stir through for a minute.
7. Return the tofu to the pan and stir well to ensure it is evenly coated. It will only need a few minutes to warm through.
8. Add the spring onions for the last minute, then serve with rice.