Japanese Tofu Patties (がんもどき – Ganmodoki)
Most people don’t know this, but Japan maintained a ban on consuming animal products for about 1200 years. The ban wasn’t consistently enforced, and there were some odd exceptions, but it started with the introduction of Buddhism and didn’t end until Japan opened its doors to the West in the latter half of the 19th century.
Ganmodoki literally means “mock goose” in Japanese and early versions of this dish were made with konnyaku, which has a dark color that could have made it more closely resemble its namesake. Whatever its roots, Ganmodoki’s current incarnation is a tofu patty that’s loaded with vegetables and mushrooms.
In my version, I like to go a little extra on the mix-ins to pack it full of flavors, textures, and nutrients. I’d be lying if I said this was anything like goose meat, but this tofu patty makes for a delicious Japanese entre regardless of whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a meat lover.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Tofu has a bland flavor and uninteresting texture. This recipe fixes both of these problems by:
- Loading the tofu up with ingredients containing an abundance of amino acids adds umami to the patties. Serving them in a flavorful broth ensures the Ganmodoki aren’t short on flavor.
- Mixing a colorful assortment of vegetables, mushrooms, and seeds into the tofu patties makes them visually appealing, contributing a wide variety of textures.
- Frying the tofu creates an aerated crust that soaks up the flavors of the broth like a sponge.
- The tofu patty mixture is super versatile. You can give it different shapes, coatings, and sauces to turn it into various dishes such as a tofu burger, tofu “chicken” nuggets, or tofu hamburg steak.
Ingredients for Tofu Patty
- Tofu – This recipe requires tofu with relatively low water content; otherwise, the patty will be too soft. I used firm tofu and wrung out the excess water.
- Potato starch – The starch acts as a binder holding all of the ingredients together.
- Konbu cha – Konbu cha is a savory kelp stock and is not the same thing as the fermented beverage. It comes in a powdered form and is often consumed with hot water as tea. It’s packed with umami-producing amino acids, making it a great way to add umami to any dish.
- Vegetables – I used carrots and edamame in my tofu patties for color, texture, and a little extra protein, but any low-moisture vegetable will work here.
- Mushrooms – Mushrooms have a meaty flavor because they contain a potent mix of compounds that trigger the umami taste receptors on your tongue. I like adding shiitake mushrooms to my Ganmodoki, but other flavorful mushrooms like Maitake, Matsutake, or Porcini will work as well.
- Seeds – To give the tofu some extra texture and a pleasant nutty flavor, I like adding some sesame seeds to the patty. I’ve used black sesame seeds because they make a nice contrast to the white tofu, but regular sesame seeds will work. You can also add other seeds here, like hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds. Quinoa or amaranth will work as well, but you’ll want to cook them first.
Ingredients to Serve Ganmodoki
- Konbu cha – Ganmodoki is usually served in dashi broth, but using konbu cha is a quick way of making plant-based dashi.
- Soy sauce – The soy sauce seasons the broth while providing additional umami. Any Japanese-style soy sauce will work.
- Kokutō – Kokutō is unrefined sugar (a.k.a. brown sugar). Unlike the brown sugar found in the US (which is made from refined sugar), Japanese kokutō is more like muscovado or jaggery with the cane juice reduced and solidified and then ground into a powder.
- Potato starch – by adding a small amount of starch to the broth, it thickens it up and makes it cling to the tofu patties better without turning it into a thick gravy.
- Garnish – I like garnishing this with some grated ginger and a slice of citrus (I used sudachi). There are many options here, including chopped scallions, shiso, shichimi togarashi, or sansho.
How to Make Tofu Patties (Ganmodoki)
To make the tofu patties, you first need to squeeze out the excess water from the tofu. The best way to do this is to crumble up the tofu onto a clean cotton dish towel or a few layers of butter muslin. Then you can twist the corners together and wring out the water. You may need to open it up and rearrange the tofu a few times to get most of the water out.
Dump the tofu into a bowl along with the potato starch, konbu cha, and salt, and then mash everything together with a spatula until it turns into a uniform paste. You can also do this in a food processor.
The shiitake mushrooms and carrots need to be par-cooked. You can either do this by steaming them in a microwave oven (I steamed them for 2 minutes at 800 watts), or you can sautee them in a frying pan with a bit of oil).
Add the cooked shiitake and carrots to the tofu mixture along with the edamame and black sesame seeds and mix it all together until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
This is a good time to start pre-heating a few inches of vegetable oil to 340° F (170° C). As always, I recommend using a deep, heavy-bottomed pot when deep-frying to maintain a consistent temperature and prevent spills. You’ll also want to prepare a cooling rack lined with a few layers of paper towels.
You can shape the tofu mixture into meatballs or patties, and you can make them bigger or smaller depending on how you plan to use them. I divided my tofu mixture into 6 segments with a spatula and then shaped each segment into an oval patty. When you’re shaping your patties, you want to toss them back and forth between your hands. The smacking action forces out any air pockets while sealing crevices that can make your Ganmodoki burst when fried.
Once your oil is up to temperature, carefully lower the patties into the oil. If you’re worried about splashing, you can set each one on a spatula and then use another spatula to scrape it into the oil. Fry the Ganmodoki undisturbed until the surface sets, and then flip them over. If you’re not using a non-stick pan, they may stick to the bottom of the pan, but you can release them using a spatula. Continue frying them until they’re golden brown on both sides. This should take a total of about five to six minutes. When they’re done, transfer them to the prepared rack to drain.
For the broth, add all of the ingredients to a pot and stir it constantly while bringing the mixture to a full boil. Once it comes to a full boil, you can stop stirring and let it cook for an additional thirty seconds.
To serve the Ganmodoki, put a few tofu patties in a bowl and ladle on enough broth to partially submerge them. Garnish with your favorite toppings and serve while hot.
Other Tofu Recipes
Ganmodoki (がんもどき) literally translates to “imitation goose” and is a Japanese alternative protein that’s been consumed for centuries as part of the Shōjin culinary tradition.
Ganmodoki is a four-syllable word that is pronounced as follows:
gan like gauntlet
mo like motor
do like don’t
ki like key
They won’t turn out as uniformly browned as frying them, but these tofu patties can be made in the oven. Just put the Ganmodoki on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush them with oil, and pop them in a 350 degree F (180 C) oven until they’re browned on both sides. You’ll want to flip them over part of the way through to ensure they brown evenly.
I don’t have an air fryer and haven’t been able to test this, but an air fryer is essentially a small convection oven, so you should be able to use the oven instructions above in an air fryer.
You can shape the patties slightly thinner (though I wouldn’t go thinner than 1/2-inch) and then shallow-fry them to turn this into a vegan hamburger patty. You can skip the broth, but I would suggest glazing the patties with teriyaki sauce. To do this, boil equal parts soy sauce, sake, and sugar until it’s thick and bubbly. Then add the fried patties into the sauce and flip them around a few times until they are glazed with the sauce. Then you can assemble your tofu burger as you like.
- 350 grams firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
- ½ teaspoon konbu cha
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 50 grams Shiitake mushrooms (minced)
- 40 grams carrot (cut into thin matchsticks)
- 50 grams shelled edamame
- 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
- Vegetable oil (for deep frying)
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon kokutō
- 1 teaspoon potato starch
- ½ teaspoon konbu cha
- grated ginger (optional, for garnish)
- Use your hands to crumble the tofu into a clean cotton cloth like butter muslin or a dishtowel. Pick the corners of the fabric up and twist them together to make a pouch in the middle, and continue twisting to wring out as much water from the tofu as possible.
- Transfer the squeezed tofu to a bowl and add the potato starch, konbu cha, and salt. Mash the mixture together with a spatula until it forms a smooth paste.
- Put the shiitake mushrooms and carrots in a glass bowl and cover with a tight-fitting plate or lid. Steam the ingredients in a microwave oven at 800 watts for 2 minutes.
- Add the carrots, mushrooms, edamame, and black sesame seeds to the tofu mixture and knead everything together.
- Start preheating a deep, heavy-bottomed pot with a few inches of vegetable oil to 340 degrees F (170 C). Prepare a cooling rack by lining it with a few sheets of paper towels.
- Shape the tofu mixture into 6-8 patties. You want to toss the patties between your hands a few times to press out any air pockets and seal up any cracks, which can cause the patties to crumble or burst when you fry them,
- Fry the tofu patties in the preheated oil until they’re golden brown on both sides (about 5-6 minutes). You’ll want to flip them over at least once to ensure they brown evenly. Then, transfer the Ganmodoki to the prepared rack to drain.
- To make the broth, add the water, soy sauce, kokutō, potato starch, and kombucha to a pot and put it over medium-high heat. Stir the mixture constantly until it comes to a boil. Let it cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- To serve, arrange a few tofu patties in a bowl and ladle plenty of broth on top. Garnish with the grated ginger.