While I was flicking through my copy of “Plenty”, I came across this recipe featuring tofu and lots of other soy goodness. Reading through the ingredients list, I knew straight away that I’ve had this dish before. Just not in the exact same form that Yotam presented in his lovely book. There is an Indonesian dish called “tahu telur” where fried tofu meets eggs, then hang out in a pool of sweet spicy soy sauce with beansprouts and peanuts coming along for the show. Well okay, it’s not the same dish, as the real Indonesian dish is actually a bit more complex. But the essence is basically the same. You lightly coat the tofu with corn starch and then fry it so that it gets a crunchy exterior but still fluffy soft interior. Then you make a spicy sweet soy sauce that would coat the tofu nicely making every bite dreamy.
Now, having cooked several times out of Yotam’s books, I proceeded with caution. Excitedly, but cautiously. Let me explain. Yotam is a culinary genius. He marries an array of ingredients with bold flavours. And you get stunning results…… with the condition that you don’t follow his recipes to the T that is. Throughout the book Yotam often calls for what may seem like an epic proportion of spices/vinegar/other things. More often than not, his sense of proportion in recipes would beg the question “really?”. As in: Really? He wants me to use half a bottle of vinegar for only that much curry? Wouldn’t it overpower everything else? The answer is yes it would. Or the time when I made his green couscous: Really? He wants me to put 6 different kinds of herbs? Wouldn’t they “cancel” each other’s flavours out? The answer is yes, they would.
And so this black pepper tofu recipe is no different. The original recipe calls for 11 tablespoons (156 grams) of butter for 800 grams of tofu. 11?! Really? wouldn’t that be like cloyingly greasy at the end? Of course it would! And 5 tablespoons of black pepper? Don’t they just seem to spell out COUGHING FIT to you?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the guy, I love his inspiring books. I have cooked extensively from Plenty with wonderful results. I just don’t blindly follow his recipes to the T.
Black Pepper Tofu
Adapted from Plenty – Yotam Ottolenghi
- 1 cup canola oil
- 600 gr firm tofu, cut into 2 cm cubes
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 tbsp. (30 gr) unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
- 10 small shallots, thinly sliced
- 8 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 bird’s eye chillies, stemmed and thinly sliced
- a sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp. kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
- 2 tbsp. light soy sauce
- 1 tsp. dark soy sauce
- 3 spring onions, cut into 4 cm pieces
- Cooked white rice, for serving
FRY THE TOFU: Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Toss tofu and cornstarch in a ziplock bag until evenly coated. Shallow fry tofu until browned all over, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside; save oil for another use, and wipe skillet clean.
TO FINISH THE DISH: Return skillet to medium heat with butter. Add ginger, shallots, garlic, and chillies; cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Stir in pepper, soy sauces, and sugar. Return tofu to skillet; cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Stir in spring onions; serve over rice.