Black Pepper Tofu
Once upon a time Blow Up Food was a slightly neglected Posterous blog. As from today Posterous will cease to exist, so I thought I’d have a quick rummage to see if there’s anything I’d hadn’t yet salvaged and I found this old post on Black Pepper Tofu.
Black Pepper Tofu is an Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty. It’s super spicy and fairly easy to make, though the heavy use of different soy sauces means it’s sadly not wheat-free. I’ll have a play around with some Tamari and update this post when I’ve figured out what will work, but if you’re fine with gluten then I recommend giving this a go.
Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu (Serves 4)
- 800g firm, fresh tofu (if you’re near an Asian supermarket, try to get there early in the morning and you can get it still warm)
- Grapeseed oil, for frying
- 150g butter
- 12 small shallots (350g), peeled and thinly sliced
- 8 red chillies, thinly sliced
- 12 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tbsp chopped ginger
- 5 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
- 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 4 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 16 small, thin spring onions, cut into segments 3cm long
Cut the tofu into 3cm x 2cm blocks fry the tofu in batches in the oil, turning the pieces as you go. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to a paper towel. Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan and throw in the butter. Once it has melted, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 15 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the contents of the pan are shiny and totally soft.
While you wait, crush the peppercorns, using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. They should be quite coarse. When the shallots and chillies are soft, add the soy sauces and the sugar, stir, then stir in the crushed pepper. Warm the tofu in the sauce for about a minute, then add the spring onion and stir through.
Little Hanoi, Sheffield
Little Hanoi is a brand new Vietnamese restaurant that just opened on London Road in Sheffield. I went along to the ‘soft’ opening on Sunday, and left with a belly full of well cooked, tasty, meat-free food.
Some points that will make vegetarians happy about going to Little Hanoi:
Lots of choice
I’ve been told there are 18 veggie options on the Little Hanoi menu, and although I didn’t count, there are definitely plenty. I think vegetarians should be as spoilt for choice as much as the next person. That’s half the fun of eating out.
Lots of Tofu
I love tofu. It’s totally unappreciated and has earned a bad reputation from hippies and that crap they sell in supermarkets. Proper tofu is brilliant, and Little Hanoi has plenty of it, cooked well - crispy on the outside and custardy in the middle.
The veggie stuff is actually properly labelled
Little Hanoi’s menu clearly shows which dishes use fish sauce, and don’t put a (v) against them even if they are a non-meat dish. This is a mistake a lot of restaurants make. It’s nice to feel confident that you’re not getting some sneaky shrimp in your meal.
New, authentic dishes
It’s boring getting offered the same vegetarian options from restaurant to restaurant, but Little Hanoi has some interesting dishes that I’ve never tried before. For main course I ordered Hot Clay Pot Stew with Aubergine and Tofu (without the peanuts), which is a delicious lemongrass curry, thick with coconut and full of silky aubergine and lots of tofu. I was pretty happy with it, but there’s enough on the menu that I don’t have to have the same thing next time I go.
Little Hanoi looks to be a great addition to the London Road restaurants that welcome vegetarians (I’ve loved Zeugma and Dim Sum for years). It’s also staffed by some very helpful people, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for substitutions (the vegetarian diner’s secret weapon). I’d say Little Hanoi is place a veggie can feel confident and full of good food, which is my favourite state to be in.
Ssam - Tofu Lettuce Wraps
This isn’t an authentic, bang-on recipe for Ssam (the Korean term for wrapping food up in lettuce - usually pork) but is a completely delicious recipe for a tofu version, resembling ‘lettuce wrapped’ which is a starter you can sometimes get at Chinese restaurants. It’s completely delicious, fairly healthy and fast to make, providing you get all of your chopping out of the way before you start to cook.
The key to this dish is plenty of tofu, not being stingy with the garlic, ginger and chilli, and buying a really good Hoisin. I used the Flying Goose brand. If Hoisin isn’t your thing, try Sriracha and prepare for your socks to be blown off.
1 pack firm tofu (pressed then diced)
Veg oil (to fry the tofu)
Light soy (1 teaspoon)
Dark Soy (1 teaspoon)
Sherry vinegar (1/4 teaspoon)
Rice vinegar (1/2 teaspoon)
A pinch of sugar
A big chunk of ginger (about the same quantity as your garlic when finely chopped)
3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
3 red chillies (finely chopped)
1 carrot (diced)
1 onion (diced)
1 green pepper (diced)
4-6 chestnut mushrooms (depending on size)
1 iceberg lettuce (peeled into cups)
½ cucumber (cut into matchsticks)
A handful of crushed cashews
Press the tofu under a plate for about 15-30mins. If you’re pushed for time this is not essential, but squeezing out any excess water between your flattened hands will help.
Dice the tofu into 1cm pieces and shallow fry in hot vegetable oil until you have golden cubes that are crispy on the outside and custardy on the inside. Set to one side and try not to eat them all.
Finely chop the ginger, garlic and chillies then dice the onions, carrot, green pepper and chestnut mushrooms. You’re looking for uniformity of size in this dish, so try to chop them to a similar size as your tofu pieces.
Slice your cucumber in strips and peel your lettuce so that you have large leafy cups.
Mix together the wet ingredients (the two soy sauces and the two vinegars) and season with black pepper.
Now you’ve done all the prep you’re ready to cook.
In a large pan, fry the garlic, ginger and chillies in some oil until they have softened and smell brilliant.
Add in the onion and saute until softened. Add in the carrot, mushrooms and green pepper and stir until everything is cooked and looks good. Add in the fried tofu cubes and stir to mix in.
Sprinkle over the pinch of sugar and then add in your soy mixture bit by bit until you have a good covering (no need to use it all, you don’t want to swamp your mixture). If it still looks pale add in some more dark soy.
Serve the mixture in your lettuce wraps topped with the cucumber, cashews and a good drizzle of hoisin. Wrap up and eat messily.
(the filling mixture)