This is my attempt to take the great‘s rather famous “Black Pepper Tofu” recipe from his award-winning cookbook “Plenty” (which I own and love) and make it a bit easier to prepare and healthier. This version (there are many on the inter-webs) retains the intensity and umami and removes the non-vegan ingredients by adding fermented black bean sauce.
Vegetable oil in a med-hot iron skillet, about 1/8 inch deep only. I use avocado oil since it has a high flash point and doesn’t impart noticeable flavors. Fresh red peppers cut into slices, retaining the seeds. Add garlic and ginger – sautée for a couple minutes at medium-high heat. Add 1/2 an onion or equivalent shallots. Dust the tofu with cornstarch. Place the cubes of firm tofu in the skillet – push the existing contents around a bit to make room for the tofu so that one side of the cube is in the oil and in contact with the skillet surface. Let the tofu fry until brown, which takes longer than you would think.
Once the tofu is just about browned enough begin the final sequence. Add 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil (optional), fermented black beans (about 2 tbsp based on your preference) and blend into oil, then 5 tbsp coarsely ground fresh black pepper but please do not ruin the dish with pre-ground pepper. Four teaspoons soy sauce, preferably the tamari variety. Then 8-12 green onions cut into 1.5 inch segments on the green part and smaller from the white part. I threw in some snow peas I had on hand and you can add other green things.
Serve immediately with brown whole grain basmati rice and pair with a Shiraz or medium body beer. And give your guests a nice tall glass of water in case the heat is a bit intense. Enjoy for good health.