Using a traditional Cantonese taste combination as inspiration, our Chinese Salt and Pepper Tofu is a delicious vegan/vegetarian alternative. A new go-to for us because of the perfect balance of salty and peppery flavors.
White Pepper: A Very Important But Underappreciated Ingredient
In cooking, white pepper is often overlooked. All of you raved about baked white pepper chicken wings. Pork chops cooked in the traditional Cantonese style with salt and pepper have always been a family favorite.
This salt and pepper tofu dish was developed for that reason. This dish is a far better option than the usual fried salt and pepper pork chops.
I have become increasingly conscientious about maintaining a healthy diet as we enter our senior years. Although I have made it a point to reduce our consumption of red meat and increase our consumption of green vegetables, we still like indulging in these foods on occasion.
What Kind of Tofu Should I Get??
Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or omnivorous like me, you’ll agree that tofu is tasty. Understanding the different types of tofu and how to best incorporate their unique textures is essential.
Tofu can be found as a firm, soft, and silky block.
While silken tofu is ideal for the traditional Chinese dish Mapo Tofu, soft or firm tofu offers greater versatility for a wide variety of other stir-fries and braises. Use a firm variety of tofu for this salt-and-pepper meal.
Explore more dishes like General Tso’s tofu, Kung Pao tofu, or our Ultimate Braised Tofu recipe, and learn more about the various types and shapes of tofu on our Tofu Ingredients dictionary page.
So, What Shapes Should I Cut The Tofu Into?
If you’re using tofu in a recipe, the shape you give it is entirely up to you. A solid and uniform shape is preferable while working with tofu because it will withstand the manipulation better.
So, cut silky map tofu into larger cubes (it can fall apart when agitated) and five-spice tofu into smaller matchsticks.
Some people complain that cooking tiny cubes takes too long, but I find that a plain old rectangle works just well. Small enough to eat in one sitting and easy to manipulate with a single flip. You won’t have to do acrobatics in the wok to ensure the thin edges are browned.
For the Tofu Brine:
- 14 ounces of firm tofu (cut into ½-inch thick rectangles)
- 1 1/4 cups of warm water
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
For the Tofu Seasoning and Dredge:
- 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- 3/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of sand ginger powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground Sichuan Peppercorn
For the Rest of the Dish:
- 5 cloves of roughly chopped garlic
- 1 long hot thinly sliced green pepper (seeds removed)
- 1 shallot (cut into round slices)
- 1 scallion (chopped)
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
Brine the Tofu First:
- Rectangular pieces of tofu that are 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) thick and 2 inches (5 cm) wide will do. Combine the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, sugar, and warm water to make the brine. To prepare the tofu, submerge it in the brine for at least an hour and up to two.
- When the tofu has soaked for 1 to 2 hours, remove all of the liquid and let it settle for 5 minutes. Toss the tofu cubes gently in the sesame oil and Shaoxing wine, and then repeat the process of removing any standing liquid.
Next, Season the Tofu with Salt and Pepper and Dredge it:
- Whisk together the salt, ground white pepper, Sichuan peppercorn powder, and sand ginger powder. A portion of this salt and pepper spice blend will be used to coat the tofu, and the remaining portion will be used to season the final product in the wok.
- Mix the all-purpose flour and cornstarch, then add half of the spice mixture and use this to coat the tofu. Toss the tofu with the remaining flour mixture after you’ve flipped it over. The batter-like coating will form on the surface as the wet tofu absorbs the dredging. If the mixture seems too wet or if you prefer your tofu crispier, add a bit more cornstarch.
Make the Crispy Garlic:
- For 30 seconds, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a wok set over low heat. Mix in the garlic. At this low temperature, it should slowly bubble and sizzle without burning. Burnt garlic tastes unpleasant, so don’t rush it. To ensure consistent cooking, stir the garlic around in the oil. When it becomes a pale golden brown, it’s ready.
- Take it out of the wok with a slotted spoon or strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, but keep the oil there. Place the garlic on a platter covered in paper towels.
Tofu Pan-Frying & Completing the Dish:
- The oil should be heated in a wok over medium heat. Brown the tofu by spreading it out in a single layer in a wok and turning up the heat as necessary. Don’t leave the oven unattended, or you’ll burn the crust! Brown one side of the tofu, then flips it over to brown the other. Once the tofu is done cooking, place it on a serving platter.
- Coat the edges of the wok with the remaining oil and reserve the standing oil for further use.
- Crank the heat to high on the stove. When the shallots and long hot green peppers have been cut, stir-fry the mixture for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Once the tofu is warmed, add it and toss the whole thing for 30-60 seconds. Put in the fresh herbs and the fried garlic. Keep throwing for the next 15 seconds.
- Add the remaining salt and pepper spice and sprinkle it all over the tofu and the aromatics. It will be absorbed by the tofu as it fries, giving it an additional zing. After 15 more seconds of tossing, everything can be plated and served.