Breaking the silence has been hard. I wanted there to be something solid to share with you, something that would demonstrate how creative and productive the last 8 weeks have been. I wanted to tell you secrets. And I will. But I can’t yet. So instead, I’ll just break the silence with tofu: the tofu that was always meant to come after the deep fried tofu. Five Spiced Tofu is one of those dishes, like agedashi tofu, that requires the tofu to be deepfried before being soaked in sauce. Crispness is sacrificed to a cloak of batter, which swells with the subtle, lasting flavours of Sichuan five-spice. None of the spices are hot, and actually, there are only four: star anise, sichuan pepper, white pepper and cassia bark. I don’t know why it’s called five-spice. It really is unlike me to just pass on this anomaly (direct from Fuschia Dunlop), but if I don’t send this post now, my silence will be broken by Oliver’s return and I must, I MUST post! Perhaps someone out there can explain this for all of us? xx
Oh! just a quick word on Sichuan pepper. Most of the stuff you can buy is terrible. It’s full of the pepper’s gritty stone like seeds, like the one on the right in this picture. I always buy Herbie’s Spices. Theirs is the pepper in the middle. Pink with fragrance, and you’ll hardly find a stone.
Five Spiced Tofu
- 700g tofu, deep fried
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced, with the whites separated from the greens
- 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 200ml flavourful vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 tsp Shaoxing wine
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- ½ tsp white sugar
- 1 star anise
- ¼ tsp whole Sichuan pepper
- 2 pieces of cassia bark or 1/3 cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp salt
- couple pinches white pepper
- 1 tsp sesame oil, to garnish
Heat 50ml of oil in a seasoned wok over a high heat. When it’s hot, but not smoking, add the garlic, ginger and spring onion whites and stir fry them until fragrant. Add the stock and all the other ingredients except the tofu, spring onion greens and sesame oil. Stir well. Gently add the tofu and bring back to a boil, then simmer and stir gently for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has almost completely evaporated.
Remove from the heat and place the tofu on a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with the sesame oil, sprinkle with spring onion greens and then pour over any remaining sauce from the wok.