If you’ve followed my Instagram for any length of time, you’ll know I can’t get enough of salt and pepper tofu. I have made various iterations of the delicacy. Such iterations include this Vegan Vietnamese salad with salt and pepper tofu and kinda nuoc mam. They also include this salt and pepper tofu salad with ginger kaffir satay and fennel.
It goes without saying, then, that when I see salt and pepper tofu on a menu, I order it. No questions asked. This dish is very much a riff on a salt and pepper tofu I had recently at Hannoi Hannah, a Vietnamese inspired restaurant in Melbourne. As I generally do when I eat out, I expected to feel sick after the meal. After all, it’s a bit much to ask that a dish be gluten free, vegetarian, onion and garlic free, fructose friendly, etc etc etc. However! Much to my absolute delight, I finished the meal and the evening feeling delightfully well. So much so, that I decided I must develop my own version to eat at home.
FODMAP notes for your salt and pepper tofu salad
I developed this recipe prior to Monash changing the FODMAP limit for tomatoes. When I developed the recipe, cherry tomatoes were low FODMAP in 75g servings. These days, the limit is 3 cherry tomatoes, so a considerable difference. If tomatoes are not an issue for you, carry on as usual. If they are, consider using lettuce or a green instead of the tomatoes.
Tofu is considered FODMAP friendly in 160g or 2/3 cup servings, which is totally fine if you plan to share this dish. Some days I can demolish a pack of tofu alone and feel fine, other days, not so much. Assess your own tolerance, and don’t limit anything you don’t react to. The idea of FODMAP is to eat as much of everything as you can tolerate.
Cherry tomatoes are FODMAP friendly in 75g serves, which keeps a punnet well under a healthy limit. I find I can eat more tomatoes than that, but if you don’t tolerate fructans, you may not be able to.
With that in mind, use a mix of cherry tomatoes and chopped regular tomatoes if you have concerns. You can also bulk the dish out with thinly sliced cucumbers.
The super easy sauce for the dish is made with tamarind paste, Tamari (gluten free soy sauce) maple syrup and kaffir lime zest. These are all FODMAP friendly ingredients.
Make sure you buy gluten free cornflour/cornstarch for the salt and pepper tofu, if you need the dish to be gluten free.
Tamari is easily purchased at supermarkets and health food stores.
Tamarind paste is also easily purchased at supermarkets and Asian grocers in Australia. I have seen it in supermarkets for years.
Makrut limes are easily purchased at your local Asian grocer, farmers market, or sometimes even supermarket. In Melbourne, I recommend Minh Phat in Abbotsford, and the farmers market in Abbotsford on Saturdays. My grocer tells me that they’re seasonal to summer in Melbourne, but I often see them floating around in the cooler months. I buy them whenever I see them, freeze them, and microplane the frozen zest straight into dishes.
I HIGHLY recommend finding Thai Basil and Vietnamese mint. They essentially make the dish. Like makrut limes, they can be found at Asian Grocers, good quality greengrocers, and some supermarkets. If you really can’t find them, coriander or mint would be a reasonable stand in.
If you are cooking for someone with a nut allergy, you can omit the peanuts. Make sure you use vegetable based oil rather than peanut, if this is the case.
White pepper is a MUST for salt and pepper tofu salads!
Substitution options for your salt and pepper tofu salad
If you’d prefer this dish be 100% grain free, you can simply fry the tofu as is, then generously sprinkle it with salt and pepper while still hot. Make sure you blot excess liquid off as it can really spit when it hits the oil.
Add in some cucumber to bulk it up if you fancy that.
As we’ve mentioned, you change up the nut or omit it entirely for a nut free option.
Not a substitution, but more of a suggestion: the dressing could easily be used on a cold noodle salad or for a rice paper roll dipping sauce. It’s ready in one minute and tastes incredible.
Monash has recently updated the FODMAP friendly quantity of common tomatoes to 1/2 a tomato per serve if you have issues with fructose. Similarly, the new safe limit of cherry tomatoes is 3 tomatoes per serve. Please keep this in mind if you have previously reacted to tomatoes. If not, business as usual!
More salad recipes
- Spiced pumpkin, kale and quinoa salad
- Vietnamese coleslaw with vegan nuoc mam and crispy tofu
- Winter citrus salad
- Vegetarian kind of Cobb salad
- Cucumber and tomato herb salad
Salt and pepper tofu salad with a sweet tamarind dressing
FOR THE SALT AND PEPPER TOFU:
- 500 g extra firm tofu well drained (see notes)
- 2 teaspoons gluten free cornflour
- 1 teaspoon white pepper freshly ground is dynamite but pre-ground will suffice
- 1 teaspoon table salt
FOR THE SWEET TAMARIND AND KAFFIR SAUCE
- 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 4-6 tablespoons maple syrup you could probably also use rice malt syrup
- 1/2 tablespoon Tamari
- Freshly grated makrut lime zest to taste
- 2 punnets of cherry tomatoes chopped (see notes)
- 1 large tomato chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 bunch of Thai basil
- 1 bunch of Vietnamese mint
- Chilli chopped (optional)
- 1/4-1/2 cup chopped toasted peanuts (omit for nut free)
- Juice of 1 lime
- Sea salt flakes to taste
TO MAKE THE SALT AND PEPPER TOFU:
- Drain the tofu as per the instructions in the introduction. Leave it to drain as long as you can, before cutting the tofu into the desired bite sized pieces. I like to tear the tofu into chunks for this dish.
- Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet or saucepan over a medium high heat. Fill the base of the skillet with vegetable or peanut oil – just to cover the bottom, as we’re shallow frying the tofu. Allow to heat until a drop of water sizzles dramatically on impact.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornflour, salt and white pepper, and mix thoroughly. Add the tofu chunks, and use your hands to coat them evenly in the flour mix.
- In batches, add the tofu chunks to the hot oil. They should sizzle on impact, creating a crispy crust. Don’t overcrowd the pan – leave plenty of space between the pieces. Steam and crowding is the enemy of crispiness. Cook until each side of the tofu is well browned, and then place on some kitchen towel to drain. Repeat until all the tofu is cooked.
- In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sweet tamarind sauce, and stir to combine. Set aside to let the flavours mingle.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for ‘finishing’ the dish. Leave some peanuts, herbs and microherbs aside to garnish at the end. Add the lime juice and sea salt flakes to taste.
- Combine all the ingredients on a large serving dish. I like to spread half the sauce over the bottom of the plate, and drizzle the rest on top. Finish with the remaining garnishes and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve while the tofu is warm.