Mountain pepper tofu

I found this rather nice recipe in Ottolengi's "Plenty", and adapted it to use mountain pepperberry instead of black pepper. It turned out excellently well, so I thought it worth sharing.

Yes, it uses tofu. It's delicious and light, and all deep-fried and crunchy.

Serve with plain steamed jasmine rice.

Native pepper tofu (1)


800g firm tofu*
vegetable oil for frying
cornflour to dust the tofu

150g butter
12 small shallots (350g in total), thinly sliced **
8 fresh red chillies (fairly mild ones), thinly sliced ***
12 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
3 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp coarsely crushed mountain pepperberry (use a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder)

16 small and thin spring onions, cut into 3cm segments

* note on the tofu - I used "firm silken tofu" the first time I made this, and it was a bit fragile and goopy at the "toss in cornflour" stage. Delicious, but difficult to work with. Try to find quite a firm, relatively dry non-silken tofu.
** this is the French golden shallots, not spring onion-type shallots.
*** adapt this bit to your taste; remove seeds if you're concerned about heat.


Put on your rice now.

Make the tofu crunchy.

Cut the tofu into large cubes of about 3cm x 2cm. Toss them in cornflour and shake off the excess where possible.

Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come 5mm up the sides and heat.

Add tofu to the hot oil in small batches and fry until they have a thin golden crust.

As they are cooked, transfer them onto kitchen paper. It doesn't matter if they cool down at this stage - they'll be re-heated afterwards.

Cook the sauces

Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan or wok.

Put the butter in the pan/wok and melt it.

Add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger to the pan. Sauté on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Watch to ensure they don't over-cook.

While they're cooking, mix the soy sauces and sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

When the shallots, chilli and garlic are soft and shiny, add the soy sauces and sugar to the pan and stir.

Then add the crushed mountain pepperberry.

Add the tofu to the sauce and stir for about a minute, until it's warmed through.

Finally, stir in the spring onions.

Serve hot, with steamed rice.

Native pepper tofu