Black Pepper Tofu


serves 4 servings, active time 30 minutes, total time 50 minutes

  • 1 3/4 pounds firm tofu, cut into large (1-inch square) cubes and well-dried with paper towels
  • Cornstarch to dust the tofu
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 8-12 shallots (12 ounces in total), thinly sliced
  • 4 fresh red chiles, thinly sliced, or less to taste
  • 12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely crushed black peppercorns (use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder)
  • 16 small and thin green onions, sliced or shredded
  • Cooked white rice for serving


  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle the tofu with the cornstarch and toss well to lightly coat.
  2. Heat the oil a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the cubes of tofu and cook, turning the pieces occasionally, until golden and crisp all over. Transfer to a sheet pan lines with paper towels and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towl and add 3 tablespoons of the butter. Heat the skillet over medium until the foam subsides, then add the shallots, chiles, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until completely soft.
  4. Add the soy sauces to the skillet, along with the sugar and peppercorns. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then add the tofu back to the skillet and stir to coat it well. Taste for a balance of sweet and spicy, adding sugar or more peppercorns as needed (keep in mind the sauce is meant to be very intense and may well be salty).
  5. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and turn off the heat. Stir well until the butter is just melted into the sauce (it should make it somewhat shiny). Add the scallions and stir, then serve with white rice.



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