This spicy salt and pepper tofu (辣椒鹽豆腐) recipe actually came about because I had tofu sitting in my fridge that was about to expire soon, and utilizing whatever ingredients I had left in my fridge, I ended up making this. Now, you don’t have to add chili oil to this dish if you prefer it not to be spicy, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Food should be made according to your taste, because after all, you are the one who is going to be eating it.
1 package of medium firm tofu, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt + 1 tsp five spice powder, mixed together
1/4 onion, minced
1 thai chili pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mirin (can use shaoxing wine or any other cooking wine)
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
chives or scallion, chopped
cilantro, to garnish
OPTIONAL – 1/4 bell pepper, finely chopped
When you take your tofu out of it’s package, you want to first rinse it with water. Cut the tofu into small bite-sized cubes. Place the tofu into a pot of hot water and blanch for about 4-5 minutes (this process helps force out the liquid in the tofu – or in Chinese, we call it 出水), and then remove and place on top of a paper towel to remove the excess water. Gently pat dry with another piece of paper towel over top, because you want it to be as dry as possible so that the tofu will be crispy when you fry it, and it will also prevent it from splattering when you drop it in the oil.
Sprinkle some of the salt and five spice powder mixture over top of the tofu and reserve the remainder for later. Next, sprinkle cornstarch over the tofu.
Bring a pot with some oil over medium-high heat. I used a deep fryer set at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oil is hot enough, place the tofu in small batches to not overcrowd, so that it doesn’t bring down the temperature of the oil too much. I did mine in three batches. Fry the tofu for about 4-5 minutes, until the outside is crispy and golden, then remove and place on piece of paper towel to drain the excess oil and use an extra piece of paper towel over top of it.
Next, place a pan or wok on stove over medium heat. Once the pan is hot enough, add in about 1 tbsp oil. Add in the garlic, onion, thai chili pepper and stir fry. You can also add in some finely chopped bell peppers if you have at this point too, but since I didn’t have any that’s all I put into it.
Cook the ingredients for about 1-2 minutes and then add in the mirin (or shaoxing wine or any other cooking wine you may have), light soy sauce, and sugar, and continue to mix.
Now, add in your tofu, and toss well together for about 30 seconds or so (a wok would probably be best to do this in), and season it with some of the salt and five spice powder mixture. At this point you can also add in chives or scallion if you have some and toss well for another 30 seconds. If you don’t have chili oil, you can add chili pepper flakes at this point.
Remove from heat and transfer the salt and pepper tofu onto a plate. You can either enjoy it as is, or if you prefer it to be spicy, drizzle some chili oil over top and garnish with cilantro.