The combination of salt, peppers, sugar and chilli makes an addictive, crisp coating for the tofu cubes, yielding to the soft, silky insides.
Perfect as a snack with beer, or a side. This coating works perfectly with squid too – just cut the squid into rings and fry for a shorter length of time, just a minute or two.
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 block (about 340g / 11 ¾ oz) firm tofu
cooking oil, for deep-frying
cornflour, for dusting
1 tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns,
toasted and fi nely ground
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt flakes
3 garlic cloves, very fi nely chopped
3 large chillies, red and green, thinly
sliced into rings – use bird’s eye chillies
if you prefer them hotter
2 large spring onions, halved lengthways and sliced into 2.5cm (1in) pieces
few sprigs of fresh coriander
wedge of lime
1 Pat the tofu dry with kitchen paper, then cut into 1cm ( ½ in) cubes.
2 Pour 4cm (1.in) oil into a wok or saucepan and heat over a high heat to 180°C (350°F), or until bubbles appear up the sides of a wooden chopstick when inserted into the hot oil. Dust the tofu cubes in the cornflour, then slip into the oil, 5 or 6 at a time. Gently stir them with chopsticks or a metal spatula to prevent them from sticking. They should be crisp and golden after about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotte spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Return the oil to temperature before frying another batch.
3 While the tofu is frying, mix the 2 peppers, sugar and salt together in a small bowl.
4 When all the tofu cubes have been deep-fried and left to drain, pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the pan. Reheat the pan over a high heat. Add the garlic, chilli rings and spring onions and stir-fry for about 15 seconds until fragrant.
5 Add the tofu and sprinkle in the ground seasonings as you are cooking it. Cook for 1–2 minutes until golden, stirring constantly to allow the tofu to absorb the flavours. Transfer the tofu, along with all the bits in the pan, to a plate. Serve immediately, garnished with a few coriander sprigs and a lime wedge.