I have been searching for the ultimate tofu recipe for years, and I think I finally found it while flipping through the pages of Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty (p. 44). I happened to have tofu in the house at the time, and Christian was visiting (i.e., I knew I had a fellow tofu taker), so I threw it together for lunch. (I only had green chiles, which I substituted for the red.) It was spicy and delicious, and I savored the flavors for a full hour after eating it. We ate the tofu with rice, which was the perfect accompaniment and tempered the spiciness. Total yum!
Makes 4 Servings
- 1 3/4 lbs. firm tofu
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Cornstarch to dust the tofu
- 11 tbsp. butter (I used oil)
- 12 small shallots (12 oz. in total), thinly sliced
- 8 fresh red chiles (fairly mild ones)
- 12 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
- 3 tbsp. sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
- 3 tbsp. light soy sauce
- 4 tsp. dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. sugar (I used less)
- 5 tbsp. coarsely crushed black peppercorns (use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder)
- 16 small and thin green onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch segments
- Start with the tofu. Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come 1/4 inch up the sides and heat. Cut the tofu into large cubes, about 1 x 1 inch. Toss them in some cornstarch and shake off the excess, then add to the hot oil. (You'll need to fry the tofu pieces in a few batches so they don't stew in the pan.) Fry, turning them around as you go, until they are golden all over and have a thin crust. As they are cooked, transfer them onto paper towels.
- Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan, then put the butter (I used oil) inside to heat. Add the shallots, chiles, garlic and ginger. Sauté on low to medium, heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Next, add the soy sauces and sugar and stir, then add the crushed black pepper.
- Add the tofu to warm it up in the sauce for about a minute. Finally, stir in the green onions. Serve hot, with steamed rice.