Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crunchy Tofu with Buttery Soy Sauce

DFJ gave me a beautiful spring break celebration present... Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. I’m glad he knows me well or in this case, listens to me. *Wink!* Everything about this cookbook is just gorgeous… the interesting ingredient combinations of Ottolenghi’s recipes, the vibrant-looking dishes, and the short stories that tell what inspired him to create each dish. He creatively celebrates a main vegetable and adds on other ingredients, putting together cooked and raw, heavy and light, sweet and salty, and many other unique combinations. I love the way he lightens up cooked or heavy dishes with fresh garnishes. Ottolenghi certainly takes cooking vegetables to a whole new level!

On Friday night, this was our dinner project and let me tell you, it was crazy-delicious! Because I did not have enough tofu on hand and did not want to use as much oil, soy sauce, and butter as the recipe required, I lessened the required amounts by more than half. Nevertheless, it tasted rich and was incredibly wonderful.  

This dish was very fragrant, sweet, salty, gingery, and had a little spicy kick. Ottolenghi’s original recipe calls for this to be much spicier than my adapted version but I did not feel like going all the way, so I just used a minimal amount of red chili pepper and ground black pepper. The tofu soaked up all the flavors and stayed crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  

Crunchy Tofu with Buttery Soy Sauce (Makes 4 servings)
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu, Plenty

Crunchy Tofu
olive oil
1 lb extra firm tofu, cut in ½-1 inch cubes

Soy Sauce Mixture
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
¾ tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsp salted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red chili, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, pressed with a garlic press
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp pepper, freshly ground
12 stalks green onions: green parts cut long and slanted, white parts minced

Drain the excess water from the tofu by placing it on a deep plate and putting another plate on top to push the extra water out. Let it sit like this for about 30 minutes and pour the excess water out. Take care not to push the top plate with your hands too hard, because this could cause the tofu to fall apart. Cut the tofu into ½-1 inch cubes and lightly coat the cubes with cornstarch. Set aside.   

Make the sauce by mixing the soy sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Stir well until the sugar dissolves and set aside.

Generously coat the bottom of a large, nonstick pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. *See note below about deep frying.* Once the oil is hot, cook the tofu on one side for about 6 minutes until it turns a nice, golden brown, then turn each piece on their opposite sides for another 6 minutes. You can turn the rest of the sides of the tofu pieces, but don’t worry about it too much. As long as the top and bottom sides are golden and crunchy, that’s good. Move the cooked tofu to a plate lined with paper towels to remove the excess oil.

If you think there’s too much oil left from frying the tofu, pour some out, if not, go ahead and melt the butter in the same pan. When all the butter has sizzled off, add the onions, red chili, jalapeno, garlic, and ginger. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. Add the soy sauce mixture and stir well. Throw in the ground pepper and give it another good stir. Toss in the tofu cubes and stir for a little over a minute. Add the green onions and stir for another minute. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

This dish is really good with plain, soba noodles or rice.

*Note: The original recipe requires more oil… pour the oil until it comes a ¼ inch up the pan. However, I found that just coating the bottom of the pan with oil up to about half a millimeter high was enough to give the tofu a nice crunch. There will be a lot of hot oil pinprick splashes and they hurt, so stand far back from the pan when frying the tofu and use tongs to turn the cubes. Do not let this step daunt you though, because frying the tofu is essential in making this dish extra special.*

All the flavors you can imagine in authentic Chinese food, without the unnecessary grease that makes your lips all shiny and without the guilt feeling of running a marathon the next day to get rid of all the oil and butter you consumed.   


To DFJ: I love my book and I promise, there will be PLENTY more dishes to come!


  1. Oh yum! This looks delicious! I love tofu, but for some extremely strange reason, my boyfriend HATES it! This looks extremely tasty, he may change his mind!

    1. I used to hate tofu too, but now I love it, especially after I found out how it can be cooked with practically anything!

  2. We love tofu at my place. My hubby would be thrilled if I cooked this for him. This looks wonderful! Will be making it soon.

  3. This cookbook is basically one of my favorites so I'm so glad you're enjoying it! It's a masterpiece.

    Fried tofu is for sure one of my most favorite things and this sounds like it's really full of flavor! yum.

  4. I have this book too. Isn't it just beautiful? All of it, the layout, the photos. To be honest, I haven't even cooked from it yet! Sad to admit. Thanks for the reminder. I might have to start with this tofu! and like you, probably won't go all the way with the spice factor. I'm a wimp.


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