• The San Juan Daily Star

My new favorite tofu

Black pepper tofu and asparagus. This stir-fry from Kay Chun pairs pleasingly squishy tofu with the grassy snap of asparagus and snow peas

By Emily Weinstein

There are very few people in this world who can make tofu as exciting a topic as Samin Nosrat. I felt that keenly this week when I got to chat about vegetarian cooking with Samin and Tejal Rao, our California restaurant critic and author of The Veggie newsletter, at a New York Times Cooking virtual event, in which tofu was a very hot topic.

Samin described one of her favorite tofu-cooking methods, in which medium-firm tofu is doused in liquid aminos (a seasoning that is soy sauce-adjacent) and pan-fried in coconut oil, in such evocative, mouthwatering terms that I wanted to run downstairs and make it for lunch.

The next day, I made Kay Chun’s latest tofu recipe, which is my new favorite, a stir-fry tossed in a rich, gingery black pepper sauce and jumbled with spring vegetables.

Black pepper stir-fried tofu and asparagus

This fast, one-skillet stir-fry dinner combines vibrant spring vegetables with hearty tofu in a rich and spicy black-pepper sauce. (Use freshly ground pepper, if possible, for the ideal combination of flavor and heat.) The tofu is simmered in the fragrant sauce, which is spiked with aromatic garlic and ginger until it has absorbed all of the flavors and is nicely glazed. This recipe is perfect for using up that pencil-thin asparagus, which cooks quickly and toes the line between crisp and tender, while sweet snap peas balance out the assertive sauce. The dish can be served over baby spinach or in lettuce cups instead of with rice for a satisfying salad.

By Kay Chun

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons turbinado or light brown sugar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or a vegan alternative

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as safflower or canola

1 large shallot, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger

1 pound pencil-thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into thirds

4 ounces snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

Steamed short-grain brown or white rice, for serving


1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon black pepper and 2 tablespoons of water. In a large nonstick skillet, combine tofu and half of the black pepper sauce, and season with salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened and nicely coats the tofu, about 5 minutes. Slide glazed tofu and any sauce out onto a rimmed plate.

2. Wipe or rinse out the skillet and heat oil over medium. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add asparagus and snap peas, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add scallions, the remaining black pepper sauce and the tofu, and cook, stirring, until vegetables are evenly coated in the sauce. Stir in cilantro, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Divide tofu and vegetables among plates and spoon over any remaining pan sauce. Serve with rice.

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