Friday, February 29, 2008

February 25, 2008: Soy bombs

My mind's been ticking over ever since Elly announced the Eat to the Beat! blog event. I love a theme, and I knew I could meld meals and music since I count Fiona Apple, Cake and Custard among my favourite music-makers. There are lots of songs out there likening loves to sweet treats, but Warrant's tune Sweet Cherry Pie really isn't to my taste. Ben Lee is more my style, but listening to the lyrics of Cigarettes Will Kill You, I couldn't fathom what he was suggesting I make! (Though clearly it was not to be served up with cake... listen for yourself using the player at the end of this post and tell me what you think is cooking.) Perhaps, like Talking Heads, I was destined to Stay Hungry.

Then, channelling the Eels, Michael chipped in with "Whatever happened to soy bomb?" The lyrics of this song are rather bleak and not at all related to food, but I liked the idea of soy bombs for dinner. A google search for tofu balls turned up a pleasant-looking recipe from Post-Punk Kitchen and I figured I'd give it a go. I wasn't that wrapped with the meatballs-and-spaghetti-style serving suggestion, but latched onto a commenter's use of sweet chilli sauce for dipping. We'd be having our soy bombs with sweet chilli and salad.

I was impressed with how easily the mixture came together into balls (I have a checkered history when it comes to vege burgers, balls and the like) and they smelled pretty good too. As I fried up the second pan-full, I idly picked up one from the first batch and took a bite. Holy mother of tofu! These are incredible! I couldn't get over the fact that they do actually kind of taste like pork-mince meatballs. The flavour was so much more than the ingredients that went in. I madly posed and photographed them, frying up a third pan-full before Michael arrived home. Exhausted from his netball game, I barely let him sit down before stuffing one into his mouth. "Don't look at the recipe - just taste it! Aren't these great? Guess what went into them!"

He was moderately impressed at that time, but over the course of the evening as we worked our way through more (now with salad), neither of us could stop with our exclamations. "Mmmm! So good! And such simple ingredients! I'd definitely make these for guests." The only thing I noticed after eating copious numbers of these is that they were a bit salty, probably because the peanut butter I used had added salt. So if your peanut butter also includes salt, consider reducing the amount of soy sauce by a bit.

So try 'em. And try this small collection of foodie rock'n'roll as you mix, roll and fry.

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Three other tasty tunes I wish I'd been able to add:
  • How To Make Gravy by Paul Kelly
  • Milk by Garbage
  • Pumpkin Soup by Kate Nash (you can listen to this one on her myspace page!)
Finally, before I give this fantastically simple and simply fantastic recipe, I've got a riddle for you:

What do you get after dropping a soy bomb?

The answer is the name of another foodie song in my CD collection, and will be revealed in the next post.

Soy bombs

500g extra firm tofu
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce (less if your peanut butter includes salt)
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
fresh basil, roughly chopped/ripped (or another herb of your choice)
~1/2 cup plain flour
~1/3 cup vegetable oil

Crumble the tofu into a large bowl. Add the onion, soy sauce, peanut butter, breadcrumbs and basil; combine thoroughly. Roll the mixture into balls about 3cm in diameter and lightly coat them in flour.

Pour vege oil into a non-stick frypan so that it's about 2mm deep. Heat the oil until not quite smoking and add a tofu ball - it should sizzle in the oil. Once it does begin to sizzle, add more balls to the pan, turning them after a minute or two to develop an even crust. When they're done, transfer to absorbent paper and continue with the remaining balls.

Eat right out of the pan, or dipped in sweet chilli sauce, or with spaghetti and tomato sauce, or on a sandwich. I bet you can find other ways to enjoy these too!


  1. Great entry to the event! You have a great taste in music (which I can say because we listen to a lot of the same stuff ;). For a minute there I almost picked a song about cigarettes, too (Rufus Wainwright's "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk")..but I would have served it up as a cake. Anyway, I am babbling. The "soy bombs" look great. Thanks for participating!

  2. Oh this is great - I have had fun with this event too and now am loving all your suggestions and will listen to your tunes if my net connection isn't annoying me (although it is a time when I realise all my CDs that disappeared while I was travelling - I wish I still had my You Am I cd).

    And I have some tofu in the fridge that I have been wondering what to do with - now I have an idea...

  3. These look delicious, I would eat these at the drop of a hat, vego or not!!!! Vida x

  4. Thanks, Elly! This was a lot of fun. I probably wouldn't have found this delicious recipe without your event as inspiration, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other bloggers create!

    Johanna, You Am I were a huge part of my teenage years and I'm still rather attached to them. :-) I hope you'll give this recipe a go and let us know what you think of it!

    Thanks, Vida! I might bring them to the next Bloggers' Banquet...

  5. Looking forward to trying these at the Bloggers' Banquet, yay!

  6. Claire, I've just got to figure out the right dipping sauce...

  7. I don't think I've commented before (I'm an avid reader though) but as I sit here with my plate of delicious soy bombs, I just had to say "OMG. Frickin' delicious!"

  8. A belated welcome to you, S-J! It always cheers me to have a reader speak up, and doubly so when you're enjoying these soy bombs so much. :-) They have been my greatest discovery in months.

  9. delicious! Like you I have struggled for long time with a good vegetarian pattie. I made a few adjustments, based on the contents of my fridge, and you are correct-greater than the sum of their parts!

    Do you mind if I bastardise the recipe and publish it on my own blog? Of course I'll give credit where credits due, and credit is certainly due here! Thanks for the great recipe.

  10. Sure, Julia, go ahead and publish your version on your blog! I look forward to seeing it.

    I'd be really happy if you linked to this post in your article but more importantly, credit is due to Post-Punk Kitchen, where I found it originally.

  11. Hey cindy - been meaning to let you know for ages that we tried this recipe and loved it! we did a baked version - mostly because i feared them falling apart to handle them too much in a pan - and they worked great! hope you don't mind me mentioning it in my blog in coming days. cheers, frances

  12. That's great, Frances! I'd be really happy to see them mentioned on your blog. Actually, an article about this recipe appeared on PPK recently (where I got it) - it seems they're originally from Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler!

  13. It finally took me 6 months but I finally made them. Wow! I made lots of substitutions with what could be scraped together from the cupboards. Here's my belated version.

    Tweens, teens and beyond all gobbled them down - what a winner! Thanks.

  14. Better late than never, AOF! I'm particularly pleased that they rated well with the youngsters. It's proving a winner across age groups and dietary inclinations. :-)

  15. My soy didn't bomb. Couldn't get the critters to form balls. And the ones that I had managed to get into a ball were so delicately balanced they fell apart in the frying pan. Where did I go wrong?

    I was wondering if you pressed your tofu beforehand? Or maybe I just didn't crumble it enough - does it need to be quite fine? Or, I did make the breadcrumbs and my bread was quite fresh - so maybe the crumbs weren't small or dry enough? Any suggestions.

    As the mixture fell apart in the frying pan, I decided not to let this worry me and ended up with a kind of tofu scramble - with crispy bits. And it was fantastic. Can't believe the simplicity of ingredients tasted so very, VERY good. So wasn't a waste, but I am looking forward to making proper soy bombs next time.

  16. What a shame, Kathryn! I'm glad you enjoyed the resulting scramble anyway. In response to your theories:
    - I use very firm tofu but don't tend to press it. I do crumble it as finely as I can by hand.
    - I've used fresh breadcrumbs before and think they're unlikely to be the issue.
    - I think the peanut butter is the key to good binding, and it doesn't always distribute itself evenly. I've been wondering if heating it a little to make it runnier (e.g. in the microwave) might allow for more even mixing?
    - Vida has also had success by adding a beaten egg (which means it's still vegetarian, but no longer vegan).
    - To turn them, I tend to gently roll them using two forks rather than a spatula. The bombs are a bit hardier once they've developed a crust in the pan/oven.

    As it is, I am still usually struck with a few collapses per batch but I don't mind scooping them up and munching on them as I cook the rest. :-)

    Good luck for next time!

  17. Kathryn - I gave up on actually making these little suckers very quickly. They're Cindy's domain entirely now - I just couldn't keep them together. It takes a more delicate touch than I possess, so don't feel bad about the crumble. As you say, it's still a delicious mush.

  18. Thanks for your tips Cindy & Michael. I couldn't let these little suckers beat me, so I tried them again yesterday. And SUCCESS! I thought the crumble / scramble was good, but the bombs are even better.

    The two things I did differently are: a) I whizzed the tofu up in my tiny food processor, so it was a finer crumble; and b) I mixed the ingredients together more thoroughly.

    Cindy I think you're exactly right about the peanut butter needing to be more widely distributed. This time I mashed the ingredients together with a fork and could see it binding together more thoroughly.

    Richard loved them too, so we're going to be having these a lot. Thanks for posting and answering my query.

  19. Hooray! Kathryn, thanks for returning and telling us what went right this time. I'm sure a few other readers will benefit from this info in the future - me, for starters. :-)

  20. Just saw these mentioned on Kathryns blog, didn't notice them back in February (I had A LOT going on back then!), but I have just bookmarked these to try, they seem to be a big hit... can't wait :)

  21. I think they're one of our most popular dishes, Tara - I hope you like them too. :-)

  22. I made them today with high expectations, but was a bit disappointed. :-/ I didn't have a problem with the texture, because I took good care to mash the tofu very finely and also microwaved the peanut butter as per the suggestions, but the result was quite bland and could have been saltier (I used about 2.5 tbsp of soy sauce, because my peanut butter listed salt among the ingredients).

  23. That's a shame, Maija! It sounds like you gave them every chance. I guess no recipe will please everyone equally. :-)

  24. I just wanted to let you know I made soy bombs again last night. They've been a regular on our menu - boy it's a good recipe. The only long-term change I've made is I now use rolled oats instead of breadcrumbs - just because we always have them in the house. It's one of the meals R and I both get *very* excited about when I'm cooking.

  25. Hi Kathryn! I'm planning on making up a big batch this weekend - I think they'll be great warm weather food. :-) Thanks for mentioning your rolled oats adaptation - we likewise have them on hand more often than breadcrumbs.

  26. I just made this for lunch today with some spaghetti and tomato sauce. I made some changes though, I used freenut butter, it's a sunflower seeds butter,panko and I leave out the basil, just because I don't have any. Yummmm...., they're sooo good and yet so simple

  27. Amanda - cool! We've been eating them this week too, using rolled oats as suggested above by Kathryn. :-)

  28. Yum! These tasted great--even my tofu-hating, vegetarian-bashing, ridiculously picky eater roommate and boyfriend loved them. I am on a steady quest to convince the two of them that veggies and non-meat protein sources are not evil and can in fact be delicious if prepared well. This was a big step.

    The only complaint is that these did not hold together into balls at all. The first pan turned into two balls and a lot of scramble. The next two pans I made into patties, which worked a little better. I think I'll add more peanut butter or an egg next time to see if they hold together better.

  29. Hi Brittany - glad you all enjoyed their taste, even if it was difficult to get them to hold shape. I think this is pretty common first time round, and you've got the right plan of attack for next time. Spread that peanut butter out as much as you can!

  30. Hello there! Just wanted to let you know I made these tonight and they were delicious and very very popular! I didn't have any peanut butter, so I ground up some almonds into butter form and used that instead, and I added some chilli because I find it hard not to put it in everything. Absolutely delicious, thank you!! :-)

    1. You're welcome, Anna! Making your own almond butter is really going the extra mile. :-)