Sweet, savoury, floral and rich, this tofu recipe contains an unusual but delicious combination of flavours. Inspired by an orange teriyaki sauce for the base, I added pink peppercorns, thyme and tangerine which gives this dish its beautiful and unique flavour.
Pink peppercorn comes from the Brazilian Peppertree. Native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, also used by people in Peru, Chile and joining regions for flavouring dishes and its numerous medicinal purposes. In cooking, it's commonly used to flavour fish dishes, vinegars, oils and even baked goods.
This dish is made with simple, easy to access ingredients. However, depending on where you are located, you may have trouble finding dark soy sauce. If that is your case, you'll find tips on how to substitute it down below.
What is the difference between regular and dark soy sauce?
Dark soy sauce tends to be less salty, thicker, richer and darker in colour compared to regular soy sauce. The sweetness usually comes from the molasses in the dark soy sauce and it gives a beautiful golden colour to stir fried dishes.
If you can't find dark soy sauce where you are or don't want to buy it for just one recipe, I recommend adding about 1 teaspoon of honey, agave syrup, maple syrup or brown sugar to the marinade itself. If you do have molasses, a couple of drops will certainly get you there.
Because of the amount of soy sauce in the marinade, I didn't feel the need to add any more salt to this dish but feel free to taste as you go and make the adjustments you need.
Tips and Tricks:
Should you use tangerines or clementines? Clementines tend to be sweeter but in this recipe both will give you very similar results.
If you don't have kumquats, you can add another small clementine or tangerine. Kumquats are not essential for this recipe.
For a gluten-free version, you can experiment with using Tamari for this recipe. I personally haven't tested it with Tamari so I can't assure you'll get the same result.
If you have leftovers, I strongly recommend you store the baked tofu and the sauce separately. When heating it up, heat them up separately as well. The tofu acts like a sponge even after it has been baked crispy. Which means storing the tofu and the sauce together will result in the tofu absorbing all the sauce overnight. The dish will still taste good but you won't have a beautiful, sticky and thick sauce coating your tofu anymore.
I doubt you'd be reading this post if you didn't like the taste of tofu but if you want to try something different using the same exact recipe, I recommend you switch tofu with Japanese aubergines. Cut the aubergines in cubes, roast them in the oven until crispy (or fry them) and follow the same steps. You won't regret it.
What do I serve this dish with?
This dish has a very strong and profound flavour and likes to be the star of the show. Which means you'll want to pair it with unseasoned foods like plain rice, plain noodles or pasta, quinoa or simple steamed veggies. A good sprinkle of nuts and seeds like sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or unsalted peanuts work perfectly with this dish as well.
If you like making wholesome buddha bowls or nourish bowls like I do, this is a recipe you'll absolutely love. For example, another delicious combination would be steamed greens like broccolini, green beans and edamame, soba or udon noodles and black and white sesame seeds.
Here, I constructed my bowl using:
PREP TIME: 1H
COOK TIME: 20 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 1H 20 MIN
Baked Tofu Marinade:
300 grams or 11.3 oz of firm tofu, pressed and cubed
3-4 sprigs (about 1 1/2 tbsp) of fresh or dried thyme
1 tsp of pink peppercorn
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/8 cups of olive oil or vegetable oil
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp of lemon juice
1/8 cup of soy sauce (regular)
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup of dark soy sauce
1 tangerine or clementine, sliced crosswise with skin on
3-5 kumquats, sliced crosswise with skin on (optional)
1 tsp of cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 tsp of brown sugar or maple syrup
1/4 cup of water
Preheat the oven to 180°C or 356°F.
Combine all the ingredients listed above for the baked tofu marinade in a container. Cover with cling film and let it marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge. Take it out once halfway and give it a little mix to ensure even marination.
Strain the marinade, separating the liquid from the chunks. Set the pink peppercorns aside for later use.
Lay the tofu cubes and sliced tangerines on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Bake the tofu in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
While the tofu is baking, dilute the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of water. In a small saucepan, mix together the strained marinade juice, pink peppercorns, maple syrup and the cornstarch-water mixture. Cook it on medium-high heat until it reaches a thick consistency. If the sauce coats the back of your spoon, you're good to go.
Take out your tofu and use a pastry brush to coat the baked tofu in the sauce.