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Salt and Pepper Tofu

crispy pan fried tofu in spicy salt and pepper mix with garlic, shallots, cilantro and hot peppers
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4 servings


For the tofu brine:

  • 14 oz firm tofu
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing wine

For seasoning and dredge:

  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Sichuan pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp AP flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

To finish the dish:

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 5 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 jalapeno sliced
  • 1 shallot sliced
  • 1 scallion chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro


Brine the tofu:

  • 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.

Make the seasoning and dredge the tofu:

  • Combine the salt, ground white pepper, Sichuan peppercorn powder, and 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.
  • 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 pan 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 pan. Transfer the garlic to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Fry tofu and finish:

  • Heat the oil in the frying pan 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.
  • Turn stove up to medium high heat. Add the sliced jalapeno 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!
Keyword Main Dish