Salt & Pepper Tofu (椒鹽豆腐)

Fragrant deep-fried tofu that'll disappear from the table before you know it!

flodesk gif
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

Do you think of vegetarian dishes as indulgent? If not, this is the dish that'll change your mind.

The tofu is deep fried to perfection, so you get a crispy, fragrant crust and a pillowy soft center. Then it's stir-fried with the famous salt and pepper seasoning. It's not a offhand sprinkle like you might do over breakfast scrambled eggs; no, this is deliberate salt & pepper to give your fried tofu some attitude.

Make enough steamed rice when you have this, because this goes SO WELL with rice, it'll all disappear before you know it!

Check out a quick story summary of our recipe!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4

Main Ingredients

  • 16 oz firm tofu
  • 3 stalks green onion (

    white part only

    )
  • 2 oz mini bell pepper (

    also labeled "sweet peppers"

    )
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 4 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 0.50 egg
  • 6 tbsp cornstarch
  • 16 oz oil (

    for deep-frying

    )
  • 2 tbsp oil (

    for stir-frying; can re-use oil from deep-fry step

    )

Seasoning

  • 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • 0.25 tsp white pepper

Tofu, our old friend... like, really old

If you didn't grow up with tofu, you might mentally categorize it as a meat substitute like tempeh, seitan, and those "non-chicken" chicken nuggets. Actually, tofu is a very classic, standard and beloved ingredient that originated in China, and dates back to at least the 10th century.

(Similarly, tempeh and seitan are traditional ingredients from Indonesia and Japan.)

Instead of making it stand in for meat and trying to make it taste like steak, think of tofu as a clean, mild-tasting protein in its own right. Its mildness makes it super approachable, so it can be made into desserts, saucy side dishes, and deep-fried indulgences!

You can get it in any firmness between silken and extra firm, brined and seasoned, dried, fried, pickled, fermented, mixed with egg... the list goes on and is ever-growing. Hey, have you ever heard of stinky tofu?

Salt & pepper dishes

We've previously shared a different Salt & Pepper dish: Salt & Pepper Pork Chops. This is a seasoning that goes so well on any dry fried dish. Other popular fried dishes that get this salt & pepper treatment are shrimp, squid, and chicken.

First, cut to separate the green and the white parts of the green onions (3 stalks). We're only using the firmer, more pungent whites for this dish. Dice the green onion whites.

Halve the bell peppers (2 oz) so that it's easy to scoop out the core and seeds. Cut into strips, and then rotate 90 degrees to dice them.

Smash, peel, and finely mince the garlic (2 clove).

Cut open the package of firm tofu (16 oz) and drain away the soaking liquid. Give the tofu a quick rinse with clean water, and then cut into cubes.

My dad cuts it in half horizontally, then from top to bottom, and then halves each section again and again to end up with 36 cubes. These pieces are on the larger side.

The smaller the cubes, the more surface area you'll get for crust. The larger the cubes, the more volume you get in each piece for soft, tender tofu. It's up to you which aspect to prioritize.

Boil hot water (4 cup) in a pot with the heat on high. Add salt (1 tsp) and stir to dissolve. This salt will help to season the tofu. When the water is boiling, add the tofu cubes. Use chopsticks to shift the tofu around so they’re all fully submerged.

Cook for 3 minutes with the lid on, and then lower the heat to low and uncover the pot. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Carefully pour the tofu into a colander to drain the water out. Let it start to cool.

Line a plate with a paper towel (or for more absorbency, a clean kitchen towel). Transfer the tofu cubes onto the lined plate in an even layer. Lay another paper towel (or kitchen towel) on top and gently press to remove excess moisture.

Spread a layer of cornstarch (4.8 tbsp) on a separate, large plate. Transfer the tofu into a bowl and add the beaten egg (0.50 ). Gently mix to evenly coat the tofu.

Transfer the egg-covered tofu cubes to the cornstarch plate, making an even layer of individual cubes. Don't stack them, or it'll be hard to coat them correctly.

Sprinkle more cornstarch (1.2 tbsp) over the top of the tofu. Use chopsticks to flip and mix the tofu until all the pieces are evenly coated in cornstarch.

Add oil (16 oz) to a large pot and set the heat on high.

As the oil heats, mix together garlic salt (1 tbsp) and white pepper (0.25 tsp) in a separate bowl. This will be added to the stir-fry at the very end.

Prepare a batch of dredged tofu in a spider strainer. If you're not used to deep-frying several items at once and are worried about them sticking together, we recommend cooking in smaller batches.

When the oil reaches 400°F (or 200°C), carefully set the tofu in the oil. At the beginning, let the tofu cook undisturbed so that the crust can set. If you move the tofu too soon, the batter will fall right off and you won't get a crust on the tofu.

When the tofu has started to set and the oil has started to recover from the temperature drop, you can add the rest of the tofu. Make sure to set them down along the sides of the pot so they don't stick to the other pieces. Gently mix the pieces around so they fry evenly.

When the tofu is golden brown, or after about 5 minutes of frying at 360°-380°F (180-190°C), turn off the heat and carefully remove the tofu. Let the excess oil drain from the tofu. My dad just keeps the tofu in the spider and sets it on a plate from earlier.

Heat a wok on high. Add oil (2 tbsp) (we usually take this from the deep-frying oil). Before the oil gets too hot (before it starts to shimmer or smoke), add the dried chili and stir immediately. Fry for just 8 seconds to extract the flavor, and then remove them.

Add the minced garlic and fry it for 15 seconds, stirring the entire time.

Add the diced bell peppers and green onion whites. Fry for 20-25 seconds, still stirring constantly.

Add the fried tofu and stir-fry for 10 seconds.

While stirring constantly, sprinkle the garlic salt+white pepper seasoning mix over all the ingredients in the wok until the tofu cubes are evenly coated. You probably won't use up all of the seasoning. We only used half of what we prepared.

Turn off the heat and plate. Make sure to scoop up all the little bits of vegetables; they're delicious. Enjoy!

Summary

Salt & Pepper Tofu (椒鹽豆腐)
Fragrant deep-fried tofu that'll disappear from the table before you know it!
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings

Main Ingredients

  • 16 oz firm tofu
  • 3 stalks green onion (

    white part only

    )
  • 2 oz mini bell pepper (

    also labeled "sweet peppers"

    )
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 4 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 0.50 egg
  • 6 tbsp cornstarch
  • 16 oz oil (

    for deep-frying

    )
  • 2 tbsp oil (

    for stir-frying; can re-use oil from deep-fry step

    )

Seasoning

  • 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • 0.25 tsp white pepper

Step 1 - Cut ingredients

↑ Jump to details

First, cut to separate the green and the white parts of the green onions (3 stalks). You're only using the firmer, more pungent whites for this dish. Dice the green onion whites.

Halve the bell peppers (2 oz) and discard the core and seeds. Cut into strips, and then dice them.

Smash, peel, and finely mince the garlic (2 clove).

Step 2 - Cut tofu

↑ Jump to details

Drain and rinse the firm tofu (16 oz). Cut the tofu into cubes.

Step 3 - Boil tofu

↑ Jump to details

Boil hot water (4 cup) in a pot with the heat on high. Add salt (1 tsp) and stir to dissolve. When water is boiling, add the tofu cubes. Use chopsticks to shift the tofu around so they’re all fully submerged.

Cook for 3 minutes with the lid on, and then lower the heat to low and uncover the pot. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Carefully pour the tofu into a colander to drain the water out. Let it start to cool.

Step 4 - Dry & coat tofu

↑ Jump to details

Line a plate with a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel. Transfer the tofu cubes onto the lined plate in an even layer. Lay another towel on top and gently press to remove excess moisture.

Spread a layer of cornstarch (4.8 tbsp) on a separate, large plate. Transfer the tofu into a bowl and add the beaten egg (0.50 ). Gently mix to evenly coat the tofu.

Transfer the egg-covered tofu cubes to the cornstarch plate to begin coating them.

Sprinkle more cornstarch (1.2 tbsp) over the top of the tofu. Use chopsticks to flip and mix the tofu until all the pieces are evenly coated in cornstarch.

Step 5 - Fry tofu

↑ Jump to details

Add oil (16 oz) to a large pot and set the heat on high.

As the oil heats, mix together garlic salt (1 tbsp) and white pepper (0.25 tsp) in a separate bowl.

Prepare a batch of dredged tofu in a spider strainer.

When the oil reaches 400°F (or 200°C), carefully set the tofu in the oil. At the beginning, let the tofu cook undisturbed so that the crust can set.

When the tofu has started to set and the oil has started to recover from the temperature drop, you can add the rest of the tofu. Set them down along the sides of the pot so they don't stick to the other pieces. Gently mix the pieces around so they fry evenly.

When the tofu is golden brown, or after about 5 minutes of frying at 360°-380°F (180-190°C), turn off the heat and carefully remove the tofu. Let the excess oil drain from the tofu.

Step 6 - Stir-fry everything

↑ Jump to details

Heat a wok on high. Add oil (2 tbsp) (take this from the deep-frying oil). Before the oil gets too hot (before it starts to shimmer or smoke), add the dried chili and stir immediately. Fry for just 8 seconds to extract the flavor, and then remove them.

Add the minced garlic and fry it for 15 seconds, stirring the entire time.

Add the diced bell peppers and green onion whites. Fry for 20-25 seconds, still stirring constantly.

Add the fried tofu and stir-fry for 10 seconds.

While stirring constantly, sprinkle just enough of the garlic salt+white pepper seasoning mix over all the ingredients in the wok to evenly coat the tofu cubes.

Step 7 - Plate & serve

↑ Jump to details

Turn off the heat and plate. Make sure to scoop up all the little bits of vegetables; they're delicious. Enjoy!

Step 8 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 9 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

We have many, many happy memories of enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and my family.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.