Salt and Pepper Tofu

Nine years ago, I was snowed in on my birthday.

Literally snowed in, as in we couldn’t budge open the front door.

I had just moved to Boston, and I was living in a cozy apartment along the Charles River. Across the hall lived one of my best friends, GP, who, obviously, was snowed in, too.  We missed sunny Manila; we still weren’t used to the freezing cold, the blasting winds, the two feet of snow that look so romantic but actually felt fiercely chilling.

Later in the day, the snow let up, the streets were partly cleared, and we could actually venture outside. But by then we have embraced our snowed in state, and we decided to stay in and order Chinese food instead. Our friend Rico was there with us. He, too, was still not used to winter. So the three of us stayed inside together, celebrated my birthday, and had a small Chinese feast. It warmed us up and made our small apartments feel more like home.

I don’t remember much of what we ordered – we probably ordered duck (we always get roast duck), and some sort of fried rice – but I do remember trying my first taste of Salt and Pepper Spareribs.

I was so intrigued by the name – is it really just spareribs seasoned with salt and pepper? Isn’t that kind of boring? Why just use salt and pepper when you can liven up dishes with chili flakes and garlic and soy sauce?

Little did I know that those Salt and Pepper dishes at Chinese restaurants would eventually become my favorites. Salt and Pepper Tofu has become a regular order.

Yes, it really is just a protein (spareribs, pork chops, chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu) seasoned with salt and pepper then fried. And as it is, it is very good. It’s true that sometimes the simplest things taste the best.

But then the tofu it is tossed with a savory mix of spices and greens, and it is elevated to something special.

Salt and Pepper Tofu


1 block extra firm tofu
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 celery rib (or 1/2 cup, chopped)
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey


  1. Pat dry or drain the tofu and cut into 1 inch cubes. In a shallow bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and pepper. Gently toss the tofu into flour mixture, making sure the pieces are well-coated.
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the scallion, celery, and jalapeno, and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until softened. Add ginger and garlic, and cook for an additional minute or two. Pour in soy sauce and honey, turn off heat, and mix everything together. Set aside.
  3. In a big frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Fry the tofu in batches, making sure the pan is not too crowded (I ended up doing three batches), flipping them around, till the sides are starting to lightly brown. Set tofu aside on paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
  4. Toss tofu with half of the vegetable mixture, and use the rest to top off the dish. Serve warm.

recipe adapted from Veggie Belly

PS – Want to help me celebrate my birthday this year?  Come join me as I host Mystery Meet next week! You can still buy tickets online for the January 15th dinner.


26 Responses to “Salt and Pepper Tofu”

  1. #
    Joanne posted January 8, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I can’t believe I’ve never had this “salt and pepper” dish before! It sounds delicious. And like the perfect dish to curl up with on a snowy day!

  2. #
    Alaina posted January 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Yum, this dish sounds delicious! I really need to cook with tofu more.

    I wish I could make it to the Mystery Meet! Happy early birthday!! (And I checked the link and I think I know where it is. If I’m right, it’s going to be a GREAT dinner!)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 8, 2013 at 11:47 am

      Thanks, Alaina! I am super excited for Mystery Meet!

  3. #
    christina posted January 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I am on a huge tofu kick right now so this looks awesome. Thank you

  4. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted January 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Happy early birthday!! Mystery Meet sounds like a great way to celebrate!

  5. #
    Meghan posted January 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I know the next tofu dish I am making! I am hoping to make it to Mystery Meet to celebrate with you!

  6. #
    Megan posted January 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Ah! Yum! I pan fry a lot of tofu but never dredge it in flour — it is that special step I’ve been missing! And of course…these spices…oh my! Happy early birthday!

  7. #
    Colleen @ Culinary Colleen posted January 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I cook a lot of tofu, but I haven’t tried flouring it. Sounds like that simple step makes a huge difference!

  8. #
    Amy @ Elephant Eats posted January 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I’m always looking for new ways to cook tofu and this one looks great!!! I love how brown you got the tofu. I never coat it in flour first, but that’s a really good idea to get it that crispness. I’m pinning this recipe and will be trying it soon. Thanks :)

  9. #
    Mallory posted January 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    This sounds so delicious! I love tofu and eat it practically all the time so I’m always looking for new ways to cook it. You can only eat so much mabo tofu every week. I’m definitely going to try this out! The last time I floured tofu, it fell apart. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it work.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      Hi, Mallory! It was actually my first time using flour with tofu and I was so happy with the results. Just be a little more careful when dredging the tofu in flour, and make sure you get extra firm tofu. Good luck!

  10. #
    honeywhatscooking posted January 9, 2013 at 1:29 am

    looks so good, i love tofu. i’m always looking of ways to avoid meat and add more veggies. great recipe. and btw.. I made your quinoa patties, and they were AWESOME!!!

  11. #
    Daisy posted January 9, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    I love the story about you three being snowed in. what a great birthday memory and some lovely looking tofu to go with it!

  12. #
    The Squishy Monster posted January 9, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I’m so happy to see tofu being featured. I dislike when someone turns their nose at it….out of crazy came delicious =)

  13. #
    Simply Life posted January 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    what a fun memory! Ah, Boston winters definitely take getting used to! I’ll have to try this!

  14. #
    Sacha posted January 10, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    What a happy memory. Being snowed in isn’t so bad!

  15. #
    Jen L | Tartine and Apron Strings posted January 11, 2013 at 3:15 am

    I just made fried tofu myself last night!!! But the family kept picking on them as I scooped them out of the pan! Next time, I need to buy 2 or 3 blocks of tofu, so that I have leftovers (hopefully) that I can take photos of and share on blog :) I just made mine seasoned with salt and pepper. I also made a side of ginger and scallion sauce. Next time, I will try your version!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      I was tempted to just pick on the tofu straight from the pan, too! Sarap papakin :)

  16. #
    CCU posted January 11, 2013 at 3:45 am

    Tofu is hardpressed to look more appetising :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  17. #
    Parita posted January 11, 2013 at 11:17 am

    YUM! I grill tofu once a week or so to go on top of salads and strifrys. But this…this takes it to a whole different level! Def. bookmarking this recipe!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted January 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      I want a grill now so I can grill tofu, too!

  18. #
    Taryn posted January 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    We’ve been eating tofu like it’s going out of style lately – I absolutely love it, and finding new ways to make it. Hope you have a great birthday next week!

  19. #
    El posted January 16, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    I never know what to do with tofu so I’m really pleased to have this recipe. Thanks!

  20. #
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious posted January 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    This is definitely my kind of dish! I’ve been trying to eat more “cleanly” lately so this here is just perfect!

  21. #
    jaime @ laviejaime posted January 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    recently been loving tofu- thanks for this recipe! never know how to cook it


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