Tag Archives: tofu

Sesame rice balls (ongiri)

13 Jun

Ongiri for dinner

Ongiri for lunch

Leftover sushi bits are hard things to deal with, freshness being kinda the critical element of sushi and all Japanese wonders. After a sushi dinner party, Man Woman had an abundance of cooked rice and would-be nori roll fillings still hanging about and decided, when all other options fall flat, make balls.

This is inspired by the rice balls from the macrobiotic restaurant in Sydney Iku, which nourished Woman during many long and impoverishing journeys through Glebe markets. As a leftover recipe we used what we had leftover – a bit of carrot, some errant aspargus spears, etcetera. Use whatever you have to hand, but I’d try to keep the rice:non-rice ratio faily similar to this, because too much non-mushable veg (sweet potato and the like would be an exception) would stop this from binding.

I also have on good authority that kneading of this mix is crucial to ensure it holds.

Rice balls (ongiri). Makes 8 – 10 – serves 2 to 4 people

  • 1 C sushi rice uncooked
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/3 C tofu (ideally a flavoured one – smoked or some such)
  • 1/4 C asparagus
  • 1/3 C carrot
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp mirin (sweet cooking wine – optional)
  • 2 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 1.25 C water – for cooking the rice
  • Sesame seeds – for rolling

Chop vegetables up quite small (see below pic as a guide) and mix with cooked rice. Add ginger, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil and mirin – if using. If you, perchance, have any left over picked ginger knocking about in the fridge, chuck that in promptly.

With wet hands, mix the rice and veg, pressing down as though kneading dough.

Keep a bowl of water next to you and pour out about half a cup of sesame seeds onto a plate.

Make balls by scooping a palmful of rice mix into your wet hands (the repetition of wet hands is a purposeful emphasis – without repeatedly dipping your hands into water or the like, the sushi rice will stick to you, not itself and you will never, ever create rice balls). Firmly shape into a ball for about a minute, if not a bit longer. Roll in sesame seeds, coating entirely, and set aside.

I put my rice balls in the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking, but it’s not necessary.

Ongiri in process

Fry or bake?

You can shallow fry these in about 1cm of vegetable oil, turning as the seeds in the oil golden. This creates a nice chewy crust which contrasts nicely with the soft rice inside – it is, however, frying and thus bad for you and doesn’t have that  clean feeling of not frying.

For baking, pre-heat the oven to 190C. Brush the balls lightly in sesame or veggie oil. Bake for about half an hour or until the crust gets coloured – these won’t get as dark as the fried balls, but the crust does get that chewy texture. You don’t have the oil weighing you down after the meal as the fried ones do and the chance of burning yourself with an errant, angry sesame seed flying out of a hot pan of oil are markedly lessened. Bake, I reckon.

Either way serve with salad. I also made a quick lemon, black bean and ginger sauce to go with it (just mix these ingredients and adjust to taste).

Estimated cost: £2.50

Musical accompaniment: Lia Ices


San choy bow (sans pork for vegetarians)

9 Mar

Woman spent her childhood dinners out normally at the Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney’s inner west. Around the lazy Susan at these restaurants san choy bow was always a massive family favourite, involving many a pair of trousers ruined by the juices oozing out of poorly constructed lettuce rolls.

Traditionally this uses pork mince, which brings back less rosy memories of disconcerting crunchiness and the odd piece of gristle. Tofu is much less grisly. And Woman’s meat-lovin’ parents actually gave this vegan version the thumbs up during a trial run in Sydney. Gristle-free since 2001!

San choy bow (serves 2 as main, or up to 6 as part of Asian sharing menu)

  • 600g tofu, mashed with potato masher
  • 1/2 C vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1/3 C lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP grated fresh ginger
  • 1 TBSP sweet chili sauce
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 iceberg lettuce

Cut tofu into pieces and drain for a few hours, trying to get rid of as much excess liquid as possible.

Mix together sauce ingredients (not including spring onion). After tofu has been draining for a while, mash up until it’s kinda mince-like. Pour over the sauce and let marinate for a few hours – or you can also cook straight away.

Cook simply by throwing the tofu into a hot pan for a few minutes. Serve with spring onions thrown through.

Serve wrapped up in lettuce leaves.

Estimated cost: £2.20

Musical accompaniment: Onra

Steamed veg & tofu with sesame black bean sauce

24 Feb

This recipe is the result of a glorious sojourn to London’s Chinatown. Man Woman realised we had not been for years, despite constant complaints about the lack of east Asian produce anywhere in London. Anywhere except, you know, in the smackbang centre of it.

So we spent our Sunday afternoon gleefully wallowing in the New Loon Moon Supermarket, picking up ingredients from the eastern Orient, getting jostled by other more regular customers who clearly did not share our White People’s Joy at shopping at an ethnic supermarket.

Thus armed with a bamboo steamer and black bean sauce for the first time in nearly 5 years, Man Woman made this super quick mid-week (we can dream on a Monday) meal. Those Chinese. First they invent golf and then they invent (I’m sure) black bean sauce. Top stuff, China. Nice work.

A note about tofu here. Don’t use the Cauldron brand or other such. If it’s covered in cardboard, if the packaging does not allow you to see the tofu, as a general rule, don’t buy it. It’s probably inexplicably dry and chewy. This recipe needs good quality, fresh tofu – but it’s still dirt cheap. A 600g packet of tofu – enough for 2 very tofu-heavy dinners for 2 – cost about £1.60. Man Woman may dedicate a post to this in future, but green grocers, Asian supermarkets and health food shops should stock fresh tofu, which should be in a tray with a clear plastic cover and partially covered in water. Also, the Mori-Nu UHT-style tofu, sold in Sainsbury’s Clapham for £1, is perfectly good and fresh. At all costs, avoid Cauldron. God knows what they do to the beans.

Sesame black bean sauce

  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 TBSP sesame seeds
  • 3 TBSP black bean sauce
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 1 large clove crushed garlic


  • 2 bunches spinach
  • 300g fresh tofu, cut into chunky cubes
  • Bunch of enoki mushrooms

Corn noodles

Get water boiling in a pot underneath your steamer thingie. Throw in cubed tofu (we found no need to drain the tofu) and enoki mushrooms.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat vegetable oil. When hot – but not crazy hot – add sesame seeds. When they start to colour add blackbean sauce, lemon juice, water and garlic. Stir and adjust proportions to taste.

After about 5 minutes of steaming, and checking that the water is boiling, lift the steam levels and throw in your noodles. At this time also add the spinach (or whatever greens you fancy) to the steamer.

Keep sauce simmering in the pan.

Cook for about 5 minutes. Serve noodles and veg with sauce drizzled over.

Estimated cost: £2.60

Musical accompaniment: Seasick Steve

A happy steamer spinach monster!

Sweet potato & tofu pie with rye shortcrust

18 Feb

There’s no hiding the fact that this crust is crumbly as all hell. So crumbly that it was transported to work for lunches in the mini terracotta dish in which it was baked. So crumbly that it nigh-on shatters at the sight of a knife. But is this a really bad thing? Is it?

Not sure about that. This was a good pie. A good pie. It would have been vegan too, if it weren’t for those pesky kids …. or Woman’s 10pm panic at the failure of the pastry dough to bind, thus placing her in an egg vs oil conundrum. O, the choices of Solomon! The yolk won out, but should you prefer to go for a vegan pastry, I’m sure more oil would do the trick.

This is obviously a savoury sweet potato pie (pumpkin would also do nicely). Tofu here manages to lighten the pie which would, without it, simple be encased mashed sweet potato.

Sweet potato & tofu filling

  • 2 C chopped sweet potato
  • 170g silken tofu
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dash of lemon juice

Rye shortcrust pastry (enough dough for 2x10cm round pie trays or one large one)

  • 2 C wholemeal rye flour
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • 2 TBSP cold water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp (+) salt

Heat oven to 200c. Chop sweet potato, lightly drizzle in oil and cook for about 30 minutes or until the sweet potato becomes mashable.

Meanwhile, mix the pastry ingredients. Roll into a ball and cover in cling film. Leave in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Cut in dough and roll to about 3mm in thickness (No need to actually measure it. Just roll it thin, but not crazy thin). Line oiled pastry dishes with the pastry and blind bake for about 15 minutes or until entirely cooked through.

Meanwhile… mash (or blitz) sweet potato and tofu. We used a dash of lemon for additional flavour, but you could try chili or fresh herbs, chopped olives or whatever floats your proverbial.

Pack filling into cooled pastry shells. No need to actually cook the tofu, you can eat as is, cold or re-heat the whole pie.

Estimated cost: £2.10

Musical accompaniment: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Tahini stroganoff mushroom pies

13 Oct

One of the things I remember my mum cooked that I liked was stroganoff. Other things, like lasagne which mysteriously liquified itself on cooking, were not so impressive. But the stoganoff was good. It may have come from a jar – my memory fails – but I enjoyed it.

This recipe actually perfectly mimics the stocky, creamy stroganoff, but messes with your mind with all this hippie, foreign tahini stuff. I made this years ago from this recipe, but it’s so basic I managed to replicate it very easily just from memory and taste.  Turning it into a pie was part of an Eastern European autumnal lunch I had last weekend, and the reasoning behind it was that a pie is a good dinner party food – you can sort everything out ahead of time and pop the pies in the oven once you’re finishing your starter. Also, it’s just like a big old hug from the boosomy Prussian grandmother you never had.

The recipe, sans  pastry, works well over rice or pasta, if you couldn’t be bothered with the fat and fuss of pastry.

Serves 4

Tahini ‘goulash’ mushroom pies

  • 1/4 – 1/2 C tahini
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • 3 TBSP tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 4 TBSP chopped dill
  • 500g mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 220g fresh, firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 packet of pure butter puff pastry (or vegan pastry) – use the one where you have to roll it out from a block rather than the ones in sheets.

This sauce part is all about tasting, if for no other reason than that the strength and flavour of tahini varies incredibly from brand to brand. You’ve got to sort it out yourself, to an extent. So mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl, adding extra water if the sauce gets too thick (it should be as thick as a thick custard – if that helps).

Drain tofu and cook mushrooms in a small amount of oil in a fry pan. Drain the mushrooms of their liquid, then mix with capsicum and tofu.

Mix sauce and veg up.

Place in either individual pie pots or a large pie dish and top with rolled out puff pastry. Dust with black onion seeds and brush with butter. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 200C for about 15- 20 minutes.

Estimated cost: £8

Musical accompaniment: Nina Simone

Miso madness: Tofu, butternut squash, eggplant & red cabbage

2 Sep

And we’re back. Man is currently away, so during these times Woman tends to have dinners that consist largely of yoghurt and vegetables, but this week I’m making an effort.

After a weekend in Paris on a diet that was about 50% cheese, bread and red wine, I felt like something a little less… well, basically something with a vegetable.

(So these measurements are for one – but you should take into account that I basically drink this miso sauce in the process of making it. I love umami so much).

Miso sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tsp miso paste
  • 2 tsp tamari/soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice


  • 1/3 block of silken tofu
  • 3 cm chunk of red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 4cm chunk of butternut squash, sliced about 4mm
  • 1/3 of medium eggplant, sliced into discs

There’s lots of veg in here because I forgo’ed noodles or rice and such.

So, prepare sauce by whisking all together.

Slice tofu into 1.5cm slices and put on clean kitchen or paper towels to drain.

Fry the squash and eggplant in a sprinkling of veg oil.

Arrange the red cabbage on plate, stack up the cooked veg and top with the raw silken tofu. Drizzle sauce over all.

Eat alone and  be impressed with the effort you make for yourself. Feel worthy and satisfied with the world as a whole.

Estimated cost: £1.20

Musical accompaniment: Antony and the Johnsons

East meets East: Lemongrass & miso mushroom udon with silken tofu

22 Aug

If you don’t eat tofu, then you probably think tofu is tofu and always bad (direct quote from work BBQ last week – alack, my attempts at grilling the bean curd on a disposable barbie failed to disprove. Alack).

But it’s not. Silken tofu has this amazing texture – kinda silken really. And it can be eaten raw, which is probably the best way to go about it. Plus, you can buy a tetra pak (long life pack) of it in Sainsbury’s for a quid and leave it your cupboard for ages until you’re forced to come up with some East is East recipe to justify ever having bought it in the first place. We made this tonight and not only did it take about 10 minutes it total, but Man had to listen to me congratulate myself all evening about both the meal and my performance in the preceding step class. See me lunge!

East meets East tasty broth udon and tofu:

  • 1 packet udon noodles
  • 5 large chestnut (or shitake if you’re fancy) mushrooms sliced
  • 1 packet silken tofu
  • 1/3 lemongrass stick – finely sliced and then macerated really well in a mortar and pestle
  • 2cm chunk of ginger, finely julienned
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 2 TBSP miso paste (we used barley)
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp (or less) sesame oil
  • 1/2 red birds eye chili
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1.5 – 2 C water

Remove tofu from packet and let drain over napkin, sliced however you fancy it.

Heat plain oil in a small pot, adding the lemongrass then ginger and a splash of soy sauce. Throw in mushrooms, half the miso and stir around ’til mushrooms soften.

Add water (should just reach the level of mushrooms), sesame oil and remaining miso and soy sauce. Some chili can go in now if you so please.

Once the mushroom broth is tasting decent, throw in the udon and cook through.

Pile the mushroom and noodles into 2 serving bowls. Top with sliced tofu then pour over remaining miso-y, mushroom-y broth. Sprinkle with spring onion and chili.

Ta da.

Estimated cost: £2.70

Musical accompaniment: Deer Tick

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