Salt and pepper tofu is one of my favourite things to order at a restaurant, it's often my favourite dish on the menu, dessert included! We don't eat out regularly, and when we do we end up at one of a handful of restaurants, friends may mock, but when it's a rare treat who wants to risk disappointment? Maybe I need to take more risks or just get out more...
Fried tofu is a really simple dish, its contrasts make it special; the crispy crunchy exterior and silky smooth centre, the creamy, almost bland, tofu perfect for the super salty, peppery crust; throw in some chilli sauce or a sweet tangy dipping sauce and I could eat it all night. It's that "share" dish I want to order just for me. The szechuan berries add another dimension, citrusy and tongue tingling; it was fun watching the kids try them for the first time!
It takes a quite a bit of frying to achieve the golden crust, but the tofu is crisp long before it turns golden, so if you lose patience just fish it out and enjoy its crispy, pale, salty goodness! I used tapioca flour because it turns super crispy and I have loads of it in the cupboard. I'm pretty sure most flours will work, it's such a light coating, you can even fry the tofu naked, it's not as crunchy, but browns in a flash and puffs up beautifully.
300g silken firm tofu
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp szechuan berries
60 tapioca flour*
canola oil for frying, I used about 600ml
1 red bird's eye chilli
1 shallot (spring onion, green onion, scallion - I never know what to call them...)
small handful coriander leaves
ginger dipping sauce (recipe below)
• slice the chilli and shallot and set aside
• pour the oil into a small wok or deep frying pan, gently heat to 185ºC (approx 370ºF) if you don't have a thermometer, drop in a cube of bread, it should turn golden brown within a minute
• combine the salt, pepper and szechaun berries in a mortar and pestle and roughly grind until you have a mix of fine power and lumpier bits!
• sieve the flour into a bowl, add half of your salt/pepper mix and combine
• drain the liquid from the tofu and carefully tip it onto a board, slice into 12 cubes, carefully turn your cubes of tofu in the flour to coat all sides
• use a slotted spoon to lower the tofu into the oil, I fried 6 at at time
• remove when golden, or when you've lost patience, and drain on kitchen paper
• pile your tofu on a plate, sprinkle with a pinch of the reserved salt/pepper, the chilli and shallot
• serve with chilli sauce, ginger dipping sauce and the remaining salt/pepper powder
ginger dipping sauce
75 ml rice wine vinegar
2cm piece ginger, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp sugar
• put all ingredients into a small pan, heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, leave to cool
• when cool, strain into your serving bowl
• add a couple of slices of chilli and shallot, stolen from the tofu recipe, no taste benefit, purely aesthetic :)
I plunge my tofu in this sauce then dip a corner into the salt/pepper powder; crispy, salty and zingy, soft and sweet, the best!
Do you tofu?