Hrníčkový ovocný koláč s drobenkou

Black Pepper Tofu

There are an awful lot of recipes out there for Black Pepper Tofu, it turns out. So why not one more? This version is adapted from a variety of internet sources, but primarily from Lazy Cat Kitchen. It is intense and delicious, with wonderful textures. Serve over rice or noodles, maybe with a nice bright green on the side (gai lan would be an excellent choice).

Black Pepper Tofu

Serves 4
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes

For the fried tofu cubes
600 grams firm tofu, diced and pressed
2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce
Cornstarch, as needed for dusting
4 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil, divided

Sauce & Assembly
1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce, plus extra to make 3 tablespoons (including the leftover from the tofu stage above)
1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar (depending how tart you want the sauce)
2 tablespoons honey (brown rice syrup or coconut sugar for vegan)
125 mL (1/2 cup) water
2 level teaspoons cornstarch
4 large garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced (about 2 tablespoons of minced ginger)
1-2 hot chili peppers, sliced thinly
4 small green onions, sliced thinly
1 rounded tablespoon ground black pepper
Sesame seeds, to garnish (optional)

The following instructions are for frying the tofu cubes, but you can bake them instead if you prefer.

Cut the tofu into large or medium dice – bite sized – and press between paper towels under a weighted cutting board for 15 minutes. Pour off and discard any liquid, and place tofu in a shallow bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons soy sauce over the tofu and very gently stir to coat. Drain the excess soy sauce and set aside to use in the sauce.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil heats, quickly and carefully roll about a quarter of the tofu cubes in cornstarch, shaking off any excess. Place them in the hot oil, well spaced out, and fry gently, turning each piece with tongs as needed to get a crisp golden brown crust on all sides. As each piece is done, (they basically finish in the order they were placed in the pan, remove it to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat (in the same oil) with the remaining tofu cubes, in batches, until they are all done. Remove the pan from the heat, pour off any remaining oil, and wipe the pan clean (carefully, because it’s hot) with a paper towel. Put the pan aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

If you are using whole peppercorns, grind them now (grinder or mortar and pestle), because it takes too long to get the amount you need at the point where you need to add it. Put the tablespoon of ground black pepper in a small dish and set aside.

Mix in a separate bowl or 500ml/2 cup measuring cup: soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and 125 mL (½ cup) of cool or room temperature water. Add the 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and stir until smooth. Prepare, in separate piles on your cutting board, the garlic, ginger, chilies, spring onions, and black pepper, and have them ready to go.

Return your skillet to medium-high heat, and add a tablespoon of oil along with the white parts of the spring onions, the ginger, and sliced chilies. Lower the heat to medium and fry for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the garlic and stir through for about 20 seconds.

Carefully stir the sauce bowl, because the cornstarch will drop to the bottom and you want it integrated. Once it is smooth, add the cornstarch slurry to the the vegetables in the skillet, and let it come to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. A flat-bottomed wooden spoon or wok tool is really good for this It will thicken almost immediately. Add the black pepper and then the fried tofu cubes and stir them through until the tofu cubes are coated in the sauce. Add the green parts of the spring onion and stir through quickly to integrate. Serve over rice or noodles, garnishing with sesame seeds if you like.