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.
TOFU & SOYA MINCE-MEATBALLS
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
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.
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.
3. Sautée finely sliced or diced white onion (2 medium) with sesame oil.
4. Soak dried hijiki seaweed (2 tablespoons) in tepid water (this is an optional ingredient).
5. Blitz the frozen shiitake mushrooms (120g) in a food processor to smithereens, to almost powder. (Tear off and discard the tough stem.)
6. Peel & grate fresh ginger (20g) and extract juice.
7. Thouroughly combine the following in a large mixing bowl:
the drained and crumbled tofu,
powdered dried mushroom,
drained hijiki (optional),
panko breadcrumbs (100g),
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.)
8. Shape it into patties. I like using a mould.
9. Fry on both sides using sesame oil.
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.
12. Once cooled, refrigerate overnight. Then when you want to eat it, gently re-heat in the frying pan to warm it up.