Photo by: Jonathan Lovekin

Black pepper tofu (Plenty pg 44)

Print Recipe

800g firm tofu (such as Tau Kwa brand)

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

5 tbsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns (use a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder)

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

You will definitely surprise yourself with this one. It is an extremely delicious dish that’s quick and straightforward to make, but looks as if it’s been prepared at a top Chinese restaurant. It is fiery, both from the chillies and the black pepper; you can moderate this by reducing their quantity a little. However, the whole point is spiciness so don’t go too far.

Serves 4


Start with the tofu. Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come 5mm up the sides and heat. Cut the tofu into large cubes, about 3 x 2cm. Toss them in some cornflour 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 kitchen paper.

Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan, then put the butter inside and melt it. Add the shallots, chillies, 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 spring onions. Serve hot, with steamed rice.

Perfect with

  1. Plenty

    Adored by card-carrying vegetarians, die-hard carnivores and everyone in between.



{based on 5 reviews}

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  • Shop Superb
    (30/07/2018) Give this to carnivorous tofu-hating people and they love it. Delicious. Give this to a vegan and they’ll love you forever! So good.
  • Shop The best tofu I've ever cooked
    (29/08/2016) I am not a huge fan of tofu, but I love this dish. On occasion I've used smoked black peppercorns which is a wonderful varion on this.

    I've never put the 5 tbsp of pepper called for by the recipe though. I always assume it was a misprint as 5tsp is adequate for a peppery taste that doesn't overwhelm the rest of the flavours.
  • Shop Too much pepper
    (15/07/2016) Much as I love spices and chilli and yes, black pepper, this sauce is so peppery that you can't taste anything else. I modified it...but it's one of those dishes that I would consider if I had a stubborn head cold
  • Shop Very peppery
    (20/02/2016) I made this for 4 people who love a bit of spice and we found the recommended 5 tablespoons of pepper far too much, overwhelming, and almost spoilt the dish. Next time I would half or maybe even quarter the level of pepper. (The chilli heat was perfect though). We also found it an incredibly generous serving for 4, and as tofu doesn't reheat well we ended up throwing a lot away.
  • Shop Not just for tofu
    (17/01/2016) This recipe has been on our menu rotation from the first time I made it for my family. I have used tofu, chicken and shrimp and no matter which I use it is delicious.