#015: Tofu and soya mince vegan/ vegetarian meatballs recipe

This protein-rich vegetarian recipe truly makes a satisfying eat.

There are two major secret tricks to make this good:

One is to up the umami by incorporating shiitake mushrooms, which is famous for having oodles of umami. As you’ll see in the recipe, I use them still frozen. When you freeze mushrooms, the guanylic acid (a chemical compound that is the source of umami) becomes 1.9 time more. When this is combined with hijiki seaweed, onion and ginger, it creates what’s called an ‘umami synergy’, whereby it amplifies the umami, elevating the dish from lacklustre to mouth-wateringly hard to resist.

And the other trick is to make it the day before. I know, it’s bizarre, but you wouldn’t believe how the texture of the soya-balls change to more meat-like this way. It is less fluffy and it becomes clumpy just like meat-mince with complex, fibrous texture which makes for a satisfying bite. The juicy mouthfeel as you bite in, the chewiness, it’s all there.

The technique of making it the day before may sound bizarre at first, but actually, there are many instances when food tastes better the next day after cooking: for example, curries meld in to an all-roundedness, sponge cakes become tender, lasagne becomes flavourful, soups and stews concentrated. (And pizza perhaps anyone? Or is that ewwww…?! lol)

The act of frying introduce what’s called the Maillard reaction. Maillard reaction is basically when the sugars and the amino acids interact with each other. This creates hundreds of new aromas and flavours molecules, even generating meaty umami flavours in non-meats.

As it rests in the fridge after cooking, the chain of chemical reaction continues. The starches continue to absorb moisture, and the gelatinous liquid from the broken down protein (flavoured deliciously with umami rich shiitake, etc) steadily improve the flavour, texture and mouthfeel.

Anyway, have a go at making this. It’s very good.

natural soya protein mince and firm organic tofu


Prep time: 30 minutes.
Resting time: Overnight.
Yield: 6 servings.

150g soya mince
600g firm tofu
100g Panko bread crumb
20g fresh ginger (large thumb size)
2 tablespoons of hijiki seaweed (optional)
2 medium sized white onion
120g shiitake mushroom (frozen)
2 eggs (can omit if vegan)
10ml sesame oil
4 tablespoons of potato starch
Salt & pepper

For the teriyaki sauce:
30ml soy sauce
30ml mirin
15ml Japanese sake
15ml maple syrup

1. Drain the water content from the tofu (600g). To do this, wrap it in kitchen paper/ towel, then squeeze the water out.

squeezing the water out of firm tofusqueezing the water out of firm tofu

2. Wash then soak the soy meat mince (150g) in hot water from the kettle. And after around 10 to 15 minutes, rinse it in clean water then tightly squeeze the water out.

rehydrated soya protein mince

3. Sautée finely sliced or diced white onion (2 medium) with sesame oil.

sauteed caramelized onion

4. Soak dried hijiki seaweed (2 tablespoons) in tepid water (this is an optional ingredient).

soaking hijiki beforehand

5. Blitz the frozen shiitake mushrooms (120g) in a food processor to smithereens, to almost powder. (Tear off and discard the tough stem.)

powderized shiitake

6. Peel & grate fresh ginger (20g) and extract juice.

grating fresh ginger

7. Thouroughly combine the following in a large mixing bowl:
the drained and crumbled tofu,
sautéed onion,
powdered dried mushroom,
drained hijiki (optional),
panko breadcrumbs (100g),
2 eggs,
10ml sesame oil,
15ml of ginger juice.
4 tablespoons of potato starch,
salt and pepper,
then lightly combine the squeezed soya mince. (Don’t overwork it so that the texture remains.)

mixture for the vegetarian meatballs

8. Shape it into patties. I like using a mould.

making vegetarian meatballs macrobioticsoya mince balls macrobiotic

9. Fry on both sides using sesame oil.

frying the macrobiotic meatballs soya mince

10. In a separate small saucepan, make the teriyaki sauce by reducing the following ingredients to 1/2:
30ml soy sauce, 30ml mirin, 15ml Japanese sake, 15ml maple syrup.

11. Pour the sauce over the soya-meat balls in the frying pan. Make sure to turn the heat down on the pan so that it is not too hot, as the sauce will burn.

soya mince balls in teriyaki sauce vegetarian macrobiotic

12. Once cooled, refrigerate overnight. Then when you want to eat it, gently re-heat in the frying pan to warm it up.

vegetarian tofu soya mince balls with teriyaki sauce

4 Replies to “#015: Tofu and soya mince vegan/ vegetarian meatballs recipe”

  1. Tamami-san, these meatballs look absolutely divine, and they incorporate all my favorite ingredients too! I can already tell that this will become a staple of our household. Thanks so much for the recipe, and I hope you’re doing well. Wishing you all the best.

    1. Hello Yoshiko san! 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thank you so much! Yup, I love all these ingredients too, like the shiitake and tofu. Yum. xx It is only in the past 2 years that I am eating soya mince, and now I’m wondering why I hadn’t before, because it is actually easy to cook with. So long as you wash it, soak it then rinse it, the smell of ‘health-food shop’ (lol) goes away, plus it’s much cheaper than real meat! – Hope you’re well too Y san! We’re all good here, healthy, and happy. 🙂

  2. Hello, I really enjoy reading your blog! The type of food you make is so good and interesting and I will try to make this. So thank you very much for the inspiration!

    1. Hello Kenya!!!!! That’s so lovely to hear that you’re enjoying this blog! I really enjoy writing it also. 🙂 Let me know how it goes making this! All the best to you! T x

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