Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu

This is, quite simply, one of the most stunning tofu recipes I’ve ever eaten. No, forget that, it’s one of the most delicious dishes I’ve eaten in recent times, and that’s coming from a woman who’s been to possibly her two favourite London restaurants in the past month. It’s up there with ma po tofu and that’s got pork in it where this doesn’t. People, this is serious.

It’s intense, really intense. The foundation of the sauce is 12 sliced shallots; that’s a lot – a whole lot of shallot. There are 12 cloves of garlic, plus five whole tablespoons of crushed black pepper. It’s hot – really hot; I thought my face was going to fall off, and that’s even without the eight recommended chillies. I’d overlooked this part of the recipe and had just one lonely, shrivelled specimen lurking in the fridge. Feeling lazy I thought, sod it, I’ll just add some chilli flakes at the end if its not hot enough. I seriously cannot even imagine the raging inferno had I used even three or four. That pepper alone is something special.

It’s amazing though, and hugely addictive. The first key to its success is getting that sleek, healthy tofu, and giving it a damn good frying in hot oil until a golden crust forms all over. It’s then added back to the shallots, garlic and chilli, simmered with three kinds of soy sauce (light, dark and sweet) and garnished with spring onions. Bob’s your uncle.

This dish needs to be eaten fresh and hot; it’s the kind of thing you think will taste awesome cold for lunch the next day – it doesn’t. It’s a shadow of its former self; just a warning.

Recipe here. Go! Make it!

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22 thoughts on “Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu

  1. Even as a vegetarian I am not keen on tofu. However, I made this recipe tonight and it is absolutely stunning. Like you I cut down on the chillis – used two and nearly blew my head off, but in a nice way. I loved the sticky crispy crust on the tofu. This is one I shall definitely be cooking frequently. Yum Yum, I love Yotam. :)

  2. We’ve just had this for dinner. Don’t be scared about adding the full amount of chilli – they seem to mellow quite a bit in the frying. It’s the peppercorns that cause the pain. I need a drink…

  3. Now this would persuade me to eat tofu instead of chicken. Being quite weak though, I may be tempted to substitute the tofu for chunks of chicken thigh meat……would that be terrible unforgivable sacrilege?
    Great blog by the way…would you like to swap blogroll links? (If I promise to use tofu… :) )

  4. This looks so very worth it. I’ve actually got all the ingredients beckoning to me from a bulging New Loon Moon carrier bag…I’m making it IMMEDIATELY!

  5. That looks incredible. Ottolenghi should be knighted for services to vegetables (and tofu). Will definitely make this – the office copy of Plenty went suspiciously awol about 10 mins after it arrived.

  6. Krista – Yes I’m pretty sure those recipes were a preview of the new book which I now know you’ve bought! Thanks so much for the compliment about the blog making you want to take up cooking – I’m really chuffed with that.

  7. Gosh. That looks good enough to convert me to tofu. I love how with pork or beef we’d be saying to let the flavour of the meat speak for itself but with this puppy we’re throwing some seriously intense tastes at it. Very impressed that your photos are a million times more appetising than the equivalent versions on the Guardian’s site.

  8. I’ve been eyeing the black pepper tofu in ‘plenty’ for ages and after reading your post have decided it’s the next thing I’ll be making! thanks for the tip about the chillies… I do love spice so am tempted to chuck in a couple but I shall definitely approach with caution!

  9. Helen, when I read your blog, I seriously want to take up cooking. This looks amazing. Is it in the new book, do you think? I think I may have to buy it…if only to look at the photos…

  10. This looks like a great tofu recipe that we’ll give a go. I have found some great organic tofu that is made Nigari style, at the Organic on Clifton Road in Maida Vale. Its £2.69 but really worth it. Very nutty and full-bodied instead of slimy. We love steaming tofu with a load of scallions and ginger on top, using lemon in the steaming water and tamari soy sauce.
    La Libertini

  11. It looks AMAZING. What were they thinking though I wonder, with all that chilli? Lucky you did miss it out; I’d have thought it would render it inedible. God, I love tofu.


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