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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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

David Day October 29, 2012 at 4:23 am

This was seriously delicious. Reminded me of a fantastic dish found only in Singapore – long beans and mince sauce.


Sophia October 29, 2012 at 10:03 am

Best tofu I’ve ever eaten. Hard to stop eating.


Pernille Day October 29, 2012 at 10:37 am

This is the most delicious tofu dish I’ve ever tried, true!


Emma October 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm

You are so right! This really is a great dish, a little worrying as you prepare it (ingredient quantities) but always turns out to be the most tasty tofu treat ever.


t0ni November 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm

I will try it out soon.
looks delicious


Bruce Morgan November 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm

This recipe is fabulous, but then I do love Tofu and Black Pepper, so it had an advantage from the git-go. I was also reminded of the many “black pepper xxxxx” dishes available in Singapore.

An important thing to remember is to use freshly ground (or cracked) black pepper. My wife used Black Sarawak peppercorns from Malaysia but any variety would do. Some interesting varieties are available at http://www.pepper-passion.com. Just to be completely honest, I own this business with my wife but if you love peper your rreally should take a look and also try this recipe.


Jenza April 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Sorry but I won’t be making this dish again! It’s incredibly oil/greasy. I love spicy food but thought the 5 tbsp of pepper was over the top so cut to 2 – still really hot and, give that I didn’t eat it all tonight, I suspect it will be inedible tomorrow.

I’m working my way through “Plenty”, Jerusalem and “Ottolenghi – the cookbook”. Most recipes work well but this one won’t be repeated!


Katinka May 1, 2013 at 8:31 am

I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this! I love the spicy/oiliness of it mind you i did need to balance out with rice and asian greens. So each to their own :)


aida taki April 27, 2013 at 7:15 am

I would so love to add tofu to my list of new dishes however I am on a low calorie and gluten free diet and therefore unable to fry any of my foods, any alternatives to the deep frying or cornstarch?


Katinka May 1, 2013 at 8:30 am

You can just fry the tofu in a little bit of oil. Coconut oil is a healthy alternative. No need to deep fry as this isn’t the healthiest option – just very tasty :)


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