I was inspired to make these little nuggets of vegan goodness by a recipe for mochi chicken that was posted in the forums by member SojoMojo. He says that mochi chicken is a common dish in Hawaii; he grew up eating them and now loves to use them in his bentos. (As I learn more about Hawaiian cuisine, I realize that it departs from Japanese cuisine in many interesting ways, even if many of its roots are in Japan.) The mochi flour, cornstarch and egg batter produces a coating that is hard and crispy on the outside, and soft and mochi-like on the inside. Chicken lovers should try his recipe for sure!
For this vegan variation, I’ve used kouya dofu, or free-dried tofu. See an indepth description of kouya dofu. You can find it in the dried goods section of a Japanese grocery store, and it should be pretty inexpensive. It keeps indefinitely in the pantry, making it a great item to stock. If you can’t get hold of kouya dofu, see the notes below about how to use regular tofu you’ve frozen yourself. I’ve also eliminated the egg from the coating, but the flavor-filled liquid in the pre-cooked tofu still produces a nice soft mochi-like interior.
As with all the vegan-protein recipes I post here, this tastes delicious to omnivores like myself too. As a matter of fact, when I packed a bento recently for the self-professed “bovo-vegetarian” in the house recently with these nuggets together with something meaty, he said he preferred these a lot more!
The whole process takes some time, but you can cook the tofu in advance and just coat and fry them up when you need them.
About 50 to 60 calories per nugget, depending on how well they are drained after frying.
For Step 1:
Soak the kouya dofu squares in water for a few minutes to soften. Lightly press them to expel the water. Cut the squares into quarters.
Combine the other ingredients in a pan and bring up to a simmer. Put the kouya dofu in (add some water or dashi if you need it to cover the squares), and simmer for about 10 minutes with a lid on. Turn the heat off and let cool. You can refrigerate this for 2-3 days. The simmered kouya dofu is delicious as-is, so you could use half of them just so (press out a bit of the liquid to prevent a flood in your bento box) and the rest for the nuggets.
For Step 2:
Combine the mochi flour and cornstarch. Take the kouya dofu squares out of the liquid, and press lightly to get rid of excess moisture. Coat them in the combined flour.
Heat up a frying pan with about 1/2 inch / 1 cm of frying oil. (You can add a few drops of sesame oil if you like to add a nutty flavor.) Fry the nuggets on both sides until golden brown and crispy. Drain off the oil well.
For bentos, let them cool down before putting into the box. They are also delicious piping hot.
If you are using regular tofu, you will need to freeze it as per the instructions on this page. Once the tofu has become spongy, press out the moisture as well as you can, then proceed as above and cook them in the liquid, etc. Regular frozen tofu doesn’t have the same meaty texture as kouya dofu, but it’s still pretty good.
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