Tofu burgers: Get your protein through plant power
If you drive through the back roads of York County in summertime, your eye catches miles of beautiful cornfields. Interspersed with the cornfields are patches of low-growing, unidentifiable plants. These are the other primary crop grown in Pennsylvania: soybeans.
In the United States, soybeans are grown primarily to produce oil. The high-protein meal remaining after oil production is fed to livestock and chickens. Pigs and cows are fed 14 to 21 pounds of plant protein to produce 1 pound of meat protein. Think of feedlot animals as protein factories in reverse.
In East Asia, the picture is quite different. For more than two millennia, soybeans have been considered as a prime protein source for people. They contain 35% protein, all eight essential amino acids and no cholesterol. With centuries of experimentation, East Asians have converted this versatile bean into products such as tofu, miso, soy sauce and tempeh.
Tofu, one of the most popular soy products, is made much the same way cheese is. Soybeans are soaked and pressed to make soy milk. A coagulant is added to produce curds, which are then pressed into blocks to make tofu. The resulting product has a mild flavor that allows it to be a base for any number of dishes.
For your next Meatless Monday meal, consider trying tofu burgers. They are not Beyond Meat, nor an Impossible food. Inexpensive and quick to prepare, tofu burgers are a simple way to consume fewer animal products. And, of course, they are delicious.
1 pound extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
for 1 hour
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons oil
Additional oil for frying
3 tablespoons dry white wine (see note)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
In a medium-size bowl, crumble the tofu block with your fingers. Mix in the breadcrumbs, milk, egg and oil until well blended and no large chunks of tofu remain. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so the patties are easier to form.
When ready to cook, form the tofu mixture into 6 patties. Cover the bottom of a frying pan with oil. At medium-high heat, saute the patties until golden brown on each side. Drain the oil from the pan and add the wine, soy sauce and sugar. Mix over a low flame, then add the patties and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Serve any remaining sauce over the burgers.
Note: For an authentic Asian flavor, I use Shaoxing cooking wine. You can purchase it at Food Mart, the Chinese grocery next to the Penn Street Market. It is a common ingredient in many Chinese dishes.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.