Sunday, February 28, 2010
Salt and Pepper Tofu
My wife and I are suckers for salt and pepper dishes. Any time we go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, we have at least one salt and pepper dish. Although we both prefer shrimp, our niece is allergic to seafood, so we usually order salt and pepper spareribs. These are easy dishes to put together, consisting of a deep fried main ingredient that is later tossed with a stir-fired blend of minced shallots, garlic, ginger and peppers before getting a liberal sprinkling of a salt and szechuan peppercorn mixture.
The szechuan pepper and salt mixture is simply a two to one mixture of kosher salt to szechuan peppercorns. Heat the mixture in a skillet or wok over medium heat until you begin to smell the peppercorns. Cool the mixture and grind until you have a fine blend. Make enough so you don't have to make it each time you make a salt and pepper dish, but not so much that it loses its freshness. A 1/4 cup of salt and 2 tablespoons of peppercorns will make enough for 4 to 6 dishes.
Making salt and pepper tofu is a three stage process. First, cut the tofu into approximately 1/2-inch cubes. Allow the cubes to drain on paper towels for half an hour before deep frying them in batches, stirring to keep the cubes separate.
After removing all but two or three tablespoons of oil from the wok, briefly stir fry the shallot, garlic, ginger and chile mix until fragrant and beginning to soften. The blend can be varied to personal taste and preference. I like to use about a half cup of minced shallots (three to four) with a tablespoon and a half each of minced garlic and ginger. I adjust the amount of chiles I add according to their heat and who I'm cooking for. I might also add green onions, cut to 1/2 to 1-inch lengths if I have some fresh ones on hand.
As soon as the shallots begin to soften, stir in the tofu and mix thoroughly. Turn off the heat and add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the szechuan pepper and salt mixture, stirring well to ensure even distribution of the ingredients. Serve with steamed rice.
I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient. The host this month is Kits Chow. If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check who's hosting next month.