December 2, 2012

tofu patties with kuzu glaze

As it is here in the US, tofu is considered a health food in Japan. Called "tofu Hamburg" in Japanese, patties made with tofu are quite popular and often seen on the menu at restaurants. However, surprisingly they are not always vegan. Most contain ground chicken and eggs. The tofu is often just added to make the patties lighter and lower in fat/calories.

Rest assured, these patties are vegan. The texture is light but the dish is nice and filling. Pan fry the patties, pour the hot glaze over and enjoy them while they're warm. Ah, it's my kind of comfort food.

serves 3-4 people
1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed between two plates for a few hours
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and minced (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 medium size carrot, minced (about 3/4 cup)
2 TBS arame, soaked for 5 minutes, drained and chopped small
green part of scallions, sliced thin (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 to 2 TBS  unbleached white flour (Arrowroot will also work.)

2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 TBS water
1 TBS shoyu

Kuzu glaze
3/4 cup vegetable broth OR water (I used the mushroom stems to make a stock since they were a bit dry and woody.)
1 1/2 TBS shoyu
2 tsp mirin OR rice syrup (optional)
2 tsp kuzu, mixed with 2 tsp water

virgin sesame oil for pan frying

cooked frozen edamame OR sliced scallions for garnish
grated ginger

  1. Prepare the patties: Sauté the carrots in sesame oil for a couple of minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms and cook until they become coated with oil. Add chopped arame, water and shoyu and cook off the liquid. Set aside to cool.
  2. Mash tofu in a bowl. Add the cooked vegetables, scallion slices and flour. Mix by hand.
  3. Divide the tofu mixture into 6 (or smaller) equal parts. Shape them into patties and then toss each back and forth between the palms to release the trapped air. Set them aside.  
  4. Prepare the kuzu glaze: Place vegetable broth, shoyu and mirin in a small pot and let it come to a gentle boil. Thicken the mixture with kuzu and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Pan fry the patties: Warm up a cast-iron skillet* on medium high flame and generously coat it with sesame oil. Place the patties on the skillet. Cook one side for 5 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Flip and cook the other side.
  6. Place the patties on a plate and pour a generous portion of glaze on top. Garnish with grated ginger and edamame or scallions and serve.
*Cast-iron skillet works the best for pan frying as it has a non-stick surface without the yucky coating of a non-stick frying pan. (You don't want that in your food, do you?) If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, use a stainless steel frying pan and a shallow layer of oil. It is important to cook the patties long enough so they release from the pan. Be careful not to burn the patties or the oil. Yes, it's a bit tricky. That's why I highly recommend getting a cast-iron pan. They run around $15 and last for decades. Lodge is a good brand.

These patties are nice even when cold. Great for bento (packed lunch)!

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