Tofu and vegetable piccata

From the archives. I got an email over the weekend from someone asking for vegetarian recipes. Well, there are a lot of vegetarian and vegan recipes here actually. Here is one I posted last year, a tasty ovo-vegetarian tofu-and-egg dish inspired by healthy Korean cooking, named after a classic italian dish. And of course, great in bentos!

A lot of people shy away from tofu because they think it’s too bland, or just for vegetarians or vegans. This recipe should change your mind on both count. It is still ovo-vegetarian, but omnivores will enjoy it too. It’s derived from an appetizer served at a local healthy-Korean restaurant. The head chef/mom there smilingly refused to divulge the recipe, so my mother and I just figured out our own version. It’s great hot or cold and is perfect for bentos. Make it for dinner and set aside some for your bento lunch the next day. You can use any combination of shredded vegetables you like - it’s a great way to use up leftover veggies.

Recipe: Tofu and vegetable piccata


For this recipe to work properly, it’s important to use the right kind of tofu (firm or extra-firm, not silken or soft) and to drain it properly before proceeding. Otherwise the results will be rather soggy and heavy.

Makes about 20 pieces.

  • 1 large block of firm tofu (momen dofu in Japan)

  • 2 tsp. soy sauce

  • 2 tsp mirin (if you don’t have mirin, use a pinch of sugar instead)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. dashi or vegetable or chicken stock (canned or granules/cubes is fine)
  • 1/2 medium carrot
  • 1 jalapeno or shishito pepper (or other mildly spicy pepper)
  • 1 to 2 green onions
  • 1 shiitake mushroom

  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch (cornflour) or potato starch (katakuriko)

  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of salt and pepper
  • sesame oil (use another oil if you don’t have this)

Cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise, then slice to make 20 pieces. My mother’s preferred way to drain tofu is to line up the pieces on a large, flat bamboo sieve and to let it drain for at least an hour. If you don’t have such a sieve, use one of the draining methods explained here. (Tip: If you’re in a hurry, the microwave method works the fastest.)

In the meantime, prep the vegetables. Cut the pepper in half and discard the seeds, and shred finely. Shred the carrot and onion finely too. Cut the stem off the shiitake and slice thinly. Mix the vegetables together.

Combine the soy sauce, mirin and stock. Put the tofu on a large plate and sprinkle this mixture over them. Leave for a few minutes, turning once.

Drain off any excess moisture from the tofu pieces and dip in cornstarch or potato starch.

Beat the egg with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the shredded vegetables.

Heat up 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Dip the tofu pieces in the egg, then put into the hot pan. Make sure each piece has some of the vegetables on it. Fry on both sides until golden-yellow and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Eat hot or cold. Optionally serve it with additional soy sauce (or pack a little soy sauce bottle in the bento).


This doesn’t freeze too well, but you can keep it in the refrigerator for a day or so.

Variations: using poached frozen tofu or white chicken meat

Instead of the drained tofu, you can use poached frozen tofu cutlets instead.

Carnivores can use boneless chicken breast, cut into pieces (a classic piccata is made with chicken after all). No need to drain the chicken of course, and you can omit the stock from the quick-marinade and just use soy sauce and mirin.

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Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

Am I right in thinking that the chicken version will freeze well?

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

Well, the problem is that the egg coating gets affected by freezing, so I would say try to use up what you make within a couple of days for the best taste ^_^

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

Oh, Maki, this looks lovely. It's the sort of satisfying tofu dish a vegetarian craves. It's not just a slab o' tofu and I'm looking forward to trying it.

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

I don't see it in the directions, where is the ginger integrated?

Thanks, this looks delicious.

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

I'm going to try this one tonight. I am also curious as to where the ginger plays in. I'll put it in the marinade this go around I guess.

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

Looks great! I will definitely be attempting these in my own kitchen. I'm an American living in Korea and my favorite way to have these style of pancakes is with lots of spring onions and baby shrimp. Yum! Personally i prefer them cold, too. ^_^

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

Do you think this would work with medium-firm tofu? I accidentally purchased this instead of firm, and this looks like a tasty way to use it. Thanks!

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

Oh, it looks good, thank you! I think I'll try this soon, but I was wondering how much tofu do you need (in grams)? I kinda messed up a while ago when I tried doing tofu nuggets, since my "block" of tofu was 200 grams bigger than it should have been ^^'

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

A block of firm tofu (momen dofu) in Japan is about 300 grams. This recipe is very forgiving though, since you are working with tofu slices. As long as you extract as much water as you can from the tofu, the finished pieces they should turn out fine.

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

I tried this last month, and I swear it's oishii!
(even though the shredded vegetables didn't seem to stick on the tofu pieces as much as in the picture posted ;P ).

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

I do something similar with leftover veggies and Italian herbs all the time. Throw it in with eggs, leftover cheese, boom frittata. I'm eager to try it with asian flavors and tofu!

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

This looks really great - you have no idea how much I enjoy seeing you posting your beautiful photos and blogging! ^^ I think I should try this (sans the egg) soon!

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

I borrowed the just bento cookbook from my sister, and glad that I did! :) I am hooked on both of your blogs now, and cannot wait to go over your posts. I made this tonight, and it's delicious! I substitute mirin with shoaxing wine, only because that's what I have in the pantry. I'm very new to bento-ing... So this is really exciting for me! Thank you!! Xoxo

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

I tried this last night for dinner, and have some in my bento for lunch today at school! This is an amazing recipe for vegetarians (Especially teens who tend to be very tempted by meat... ^^;;). I am 16 years old, a Junior in High school, in a small town in Oklahoma, and I've been making Bento lunches since my Sophomore year. Not long at all. I've been a Vegetarian since my Freshman year, so these recipes and tips are really useful! My bento lunches have been a big "wow" at my school, which is very uncultured -_-;;. I've even been paid to bring them for my classmates (Who don't want to have to learn to cook, or to make them. :P) So it's really cool for me! Arigatou Gozaimasu, Maki. C:

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

This is a great recipe! I made it hot for my lunch yesterday, and I've been sneaking bits from the fridge since. It is supposed to be in Monday's and maybe Tuesday's bento, but I don't think it'll last that long! I think I cut the tofu wrong, though. Next time I'll make bigger slices - bigger in terms of surface area not thickness. Today is the my shopping day, so I'm going to get more tofu for more piccata so that I'll actually have some for bentos. The planned bento for this is brown rice, tofu piccata, fresh veggies, and a little chunk of cured salmon.

Re: Tofu and vegetable piccata

A great recipe. I like tofu and this piccata looks good!

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