If there’s one thing I love, it’s Japanese tofu hamburger steaks (called “tofu hanbahgu” or tofu hamburg).
Heck, there’s a lot of things I love from Japanese cuisine. Teriyaki salmon, inari sushi, sushi in general, grilled eel, curry rice, korokke, tempura, chestnut rice, kabocha… I could go on and on, but I’d probably start to drool. And then I would probably drive to the other end of Houston to the Japanese grocery store, buy half the store, rush home, and spend the rest of the day creating an elaborate over the top feast with enough food for 10 people… for my husband and I. So, I shall desist…
The best way to eat tofu hamburger steaks, in my opinion, is with daikon oroshi (simply, grated Japanese radish) and ponzu (a citrus-infused soy sauce condiment). If you’ve never seen a Japanese radish, they look like this…
They’re generally about a foot long, but their size and shape can vary immensely. You can find daikon at most Asian supermarkets. To make grated daikon, wash your daikon, peel off the outside layer like a carrot, and then….grate it….with a grater. Easy right? Just kidding. You don’t want strips of grated daikon like grated cheese, you want a finely minced daikon mush. Sounds yummy, right? Trust me, it is.
I use my Microplane zester, which works great, but you could even throw some daikon in your food processor and whiz it to a pulp (literally).
Once you’ve successfully grated as much daikon as you think you’ll need, drain off some of the excess liquid, and you’re done.
If you can’t find Japanese daikon, or you don’t want to be bothered to go to an Asian supermarket (or if you don’t have an Asian supermarket), you can use regular ol’ American radishes. Just be very careful when grating/zesting them, as they’re so small, you run a much larger risk of accidentally zesting your fingertips (yes, it can be done). Not a pretty picture. Exercise caution.
OK! First things first! Here’s the ingredients you need: 1 block of firm tofu, 1/2 onion (which I forgot to put in the picture; he’s anti-social), minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil (also anti-social), ginger paste, an egg, salt and pepper, and panko bread crumbs.
Mince the onion as finely as you can (you can even whiz it in the food processor to a pulp; that seems to be a theme today…), and saute it in a skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. After 2 – 3 minutes, add the garlic and continue sauteing until the onion is translucent, another 2 minutes or so.
swaddle wrap your tofu block in paper towels, place it on a plate or in a bowl, and place another, heavy dish on top, like so. Microwave it all for 3 – 4 minutes. This will help get rid of the excess water in the tofu.
Carefully unwrap the tofu, as it will be very hot by this point, and add it to a large bowl. Add the cooked onion and garlic, the ginger paste, the soy sauce, and a light dash of salt and pepper. Mix everything, crumbling up the tofu as much as possible. The best way to do this is with your hands. Go on. Get in their and get dirty! Just make sure you wash your hands before and after the tofu mushing. And make sure the tofu is sufficiently cooled, so you don’t burn your hands in your eagerness to smoosh it.
Once everything is well mixed, and the tofu is well smooshed and crumbly, add the egg, and mix it in. Then, add the bread crumbs, and mix it yet again. A spoon works fine for these last two additions.
Now, at this point, you can either cover and refrigerate the mixture for an hour; form it into patties, place those on a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate that for an hour; or form it into patties and and cook them immediately. I recommend one of the first two methods. By refrigerating it for an hour or more, it really allows the flavors to be absorbed into the tofu and will taste better as a result. If you’re in a hurry though, by all means, go for it!
Once you’re ready to cook the patties, add a little olive oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. Form the mixture into patties (if you haven’t already), and cook them, about four at a time, until browned on one side. Flip them, and continue cooking until they’re golden brown on that side as well. Remove the patties to a serving plate, and repeat with the remaining patties.
After cooking, they should look something like this.
To eat, spoon some of that delicious daikon oroshi you worked hard to get on top of a patty, then pour a little ponzu over the top (not too much, as it’s strong stuff). Then, enjoy.
Japanese Tofu Hamburger Steaks
(makes about 10 patties)
- 1 (16 oz.) block of firm tofu
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking the patties
- 1 Tbsp. ginger paste
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- light dash of salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
- 3/4 – 1 c. grated Japanese daikon (optional)
- Ponzu (optional)
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Wrap tofu in paper towels and place on a plate. Place a heavier dish on top of the tofu, and microwave it all for 3 – 4 minutes.
- Carefully unwrap tofu and add it to a large bowl. Add the cooked onion and garlic, ginger paste, soy sauce, and a light dash of salt and pepper. Mix everything well with a large spoon or your hands. Add the egg and mix again, then add the bread crumbs and mix again. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for one hour.
- Heat 1 – 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Form the mixture into patties and cook, about four at a time, until browned on one side. Flip the patties cook on the remaining side until well browned. Remove to a serving plate, and repeat with the remaining patties.
- Serve with grated daikon and ponzu.