This one word can arouse all sorts of feelings in different people. Delight, hunger, indifference, curiosity, and for some, disgust and revulsion.
I love tofu. I’ve been eating it ever since I was a kid (thanks Dad), so it’s nothing new to me.
Due to its very mild flavor, tofu is rarely ever eaten plain. But because of it’s almost nonexistent flavor, it’s extremely versatile. You can add it to just about anything.
In case you don’t know, tofu is made from soy milk (which is made from soy beans). The soy milk is coagulated so that curds form (much like when you make cheese from milk), and the curds are then pressed into cakes.
It originated in Ancient China (although exactly when and where in China is a bit fuzzy), and then spread to Japan and Korea.
In Japan, tofu is an extremely common food. It’s also very cheap, unlike its American counterpart. I’ve noticed that in the U.S., people usually eat tofu as an alternative to meat. This, however, is not the case in Japan. More often than not, tofu is used together with meat in a dish. It’s also usually added to miso soup, served as a side dish cold with some sort of topping in the summer, etc. But it’s not considered a meat substitute by most.
Enter the tofu burger. Many Americans will automatically consider this a vegetarian alternative to hamburgers made with beef. Tofu burgers (and tofu hamburger steaks) in Japan, however, almost always contain ground chicken. While most Japanese people think of tofu burgers as a healthier alternative to hamburgers, they don’t consider it a vegetarian alternative.
Honestly, unless your a Buddhist monk living in a monastery, Vegetarianism is not common in Japan (compared with the U.S.), and it’s very difficult to find real vegetarian food (even dishes that appear to be vegetarian dishes are often made with fish stock, fish flakes, small amounts of meat/fish, etc.).
My tofu burgers also have ground chicken in them. I think this not only improves the flavor, but it also helps them stay together a lot better. Feel free to leave out the chicken if you want a real vegetarian tofu burger.
Also, I find it’s easier to use two skillets when making these. That way I can cook all the burgers at once (rather than in batches), so it goes much more quickly, and everything is hot when it’s done.
Teriyaki Tofu Burgers
(makes 9 – 10 patties)
- olive oil
- 1 package firm tofu (drained)
- 1/2 lb. ground chicken
- 1/3 onion, diced
- 1/2 carrot, diced
- 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. grated ginger or ginger paste
- 2 tsp. soy sauce
- good dash of salt and pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 c. bread crumbs
- hamburger buns
for the teriyaki sauce:
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 4 Tbsp. mirin
- 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. cooking sake
- Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, carrot, and garlic until tender, about 4 -5 minutes. Turn of heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine tofu, chicken, onion mixture, ginger paste, soy sauce, salt and pepper, egg, and bread crumbs. Mix well.
- Using your hands, form tofu mixture into patties, and place on a lined baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (this will help the patties stay together when you cook them).
- Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the tofu burgers and cook until browned on one side (about 5 – 6 minutes), then flip and cook until browned on the other side (another 5 – 6 minutes). Place burgers on a paper-towel lined plate, and then cook the remaining burgers in the skillet, adding more oil if necessary. After cooking the remaining burgers on both sides, remove burgers to the plate. Use a paper towel to quickly wipe off the excess oil in the skillet (being careful not to burn yourself; use a spatula or wooden spoon to move the paper towel around the skillet if necessary).
- In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce.
- Return skillet to stove over medium heat. Add half the burgers to the skillet. Pour half the teriyaki mixture over the burgers. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and move the burgers around in it. Flip them once so both sides of the burgers are well coated with the sauce. When the sauce is almost completely gone (it will reduce, thicken, and stick to the burgers until there’s almost no sauce left in the skillet), remove the burgers to a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining burgers and the remaining teriyaki sauce.
- Serve with toasted hamburger buns, mayonnaise, and any condiments you want.