Our Chinese Salt and Pepper Tofu recipe is a vegan/vegetarian interpretation of a classic Cantonese flavor pairing. If you love the combination of salt and white pepper as much as we do, this recipe will become a new favorite!
For the tofu brine:
14ouncesfirm tofu(sliced into ½-inch thick rectangles; about 1½ x 2 inches)
Slice the tofu into ½ inch (1 cm) thick, 1 ½ inch x 2 inch (4x5 cm) rectangles. Make the brine by stirring together the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, sugar, and warm water. Place the tofu into the brine for 1-2 hours.
After 1 to 2 hours, drain the liquid from the tofu completely, and let it sit for 5 minutes to drain. Again, remove any standing liquid, gently toss the tofu pieces in the sesame oil and Shaoxing wine.
Next, make the salt and pepper tofu seasoning, and dredge the tofu:
Combine the salt, ground white pepper, Sichuan peppercorn powder, and sand ginger powder. You’ll use half of this salt and pepper spice mix for the tofu coating and the other half to finish the dish in the wok.
Add half of the spice mix to the all-purpose flour and cornstarch, and sprinkle the mixture over the tofu to coat. Flip the tofu pieces over, and sprinkle them with the remainder of the flour mixture. The moist tofu will soak up the dredge, and a batter-like coating will form on the surface. You can add a little more cornstarch if the mixture looks too wet, or if you want the tofu crispier.
Make the crispy garlic:
Heat 4 tablespoons oil in your wok over low heat for 30 seconds. Add the garlic. It should bubble and sizzle very slowly at this low heat and not burn. Be patient, because burnt garlic has a very bitter flavor. Move the garlic around in the oil so it cooks evenly. It’s done when it has turned a light golden brown.
Remove it using a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer, leaving the oil in the wok. Transfer the garlic to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Pan-fry the tofu & finish the dish:
Heat the oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Place the tofu in the wok in a single layer, and brown the tofu, adjusting the heat as needed. Don’t walk away, as you don’t want to burn the crust! After the tofu starts to brown, flip the tofu to brown the other side. When done, transfer the tofu to a plate.
Use the remaining oil in the wok to coat the sides of the wok, and pour off any excess standing oil to use in another dish.
Turn stove up to medium high heat. Add the sliced long hot green peppers and shallots and Stir-fry for 15-30 seconds. Next, add the warm tofu and gently toss the mixture for another 30 to 60 seconds. Add the scallions, cilantro, and crispy garlic. Continue tossing for another 15 seconds.
Sprinkle the rest of the salt and pepper spice evenly over the tofu and aromatics. It will absorb into the freshly fried tofu for that extra kick. Toss for another 15 seconds, transfer everything to a plate, and serve!