Yottam Ottolenghi’s Spicy Black Pepper Tofu

by Katinka on October 29, 2012

If  anyone ever tells you that tofu is bland, this is the dish to prove them wrong. As you dice your 8th clove of garlic or pour in the 5th tablespoon of black pepper, you may come to the realisation that the quantities of certain ingredients in the dish are quite alarming. However, Yottam Ottolenghi, the king of flavour, balances all the ingredients out so brillinantly, that nothing is too overpowering. This is seriously the most delicious dish, one of the very many from Ottolenghi’s vegie plenty cookbook ‘Plenty’.

So give it a go and serve with some asian greens and rice. Bok Choi, Pak Choi, Choi Sum and Chinese Brocoli are all in season in the moment and can be found everywhere for very cheap!

Black pepper tofu
(Preparation time: 30 minutes, cooking time: 30 minutes)


  • 800g firm tofu
  • 1/2 bottle vegetable oil for frying
  • Cornstarch to dust the tofu
  • 150g butter
  • 9 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 big fresh red chiles, thinly sliced
  • 9 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 4 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns (use a mortar  and pestle or a spice grinder)
  • Handful corriander, lightly chopped


Start with the tofu. Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come a quarter of the way up the sides and heat. Cut the tofu into large cubes, about 3cm by 2cm blocks and toss them in some cornstarch and shake off the excess. Add to the hot oil. (You’ll need to fry the tofu pieces in a few batches so they don’t crowd in the pan.) Fry, turning them around as you go, until they are golden all over and have a thin crust. As they are cooked, transfer them onto paper towels.

In the meantime, add the butter to a large pan and add the shallots, chiles, garlic and ginger. Sauté on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Next, add the soy sauces and sugar and stir, then add the crushed black pepper.

Once all the tofu has been fried, add to the sauce and stir well to coat the tofu for around a minute. Serve with steamed rice and fresh corriander.

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