Monday, November 10, 2008

Beef & Tofu Meatballs

Meatballs are a great bento staple. They freeze well, defrost quickly, can be combined with a variety of different sauces, and are tasty eaten at room temperature. I like combining tofu with beef, as it is slightly healthier and the tofu keeps the meatballs juicy, even after being defrosted and refried. And for those who don't quite like tofu, once it is mixed with the beef, you can't taste the tofu. 
Continue reading for the Beef & Tofu Meatball recipe...

Beef & Tofu Meatballs
(makes around 33 small meatballs)
380g silken tofu (or less if you don't wish to add so much tofu)
250g minced beef (as lean as possible)
8 Tbsp breadcrumbs
1 small onion
2 Tbsp soya sauce
oil for cooking (I use light olive oil)
  1. Chop the onions finely, and fry them in a little oil until soft.
  2. Drain the tofu and mash it in a bowl.
  3. Add the minced beef, cooked onions, breadcrumbs and soya sauce and combine well. Add more breadcrumbs if necessary if the mixture is too soft.
  4. Heat up a little oil in a frying pan or small saucepan on medium heat.
  5. Drop little balls of meatball mixture into the oil and pan-fry on both sides until browned. Optional: If you are using the meatballs straight away, glaze them with some sauce (see below). 
  6. Cool, pack into your bento, or freeze them (unglazed) in small portions in sealable, freezer-safe bags.
To defrost the meatballs, place the frozen meatballs in a small frying pan over low heat and cover with a lid. When the meatballs are soft, turn the heat up, and add some sauce to glaze the meatballs. Pan-fry until the sauce thickens and the meatballs are well coated. Cool, then pack into your bento. Suggested sauces are tomato sauce, tonkatsu sauce, or teriyaki sauce. I like to use a combination of tomato sauce and tonkatsu sauce (Bulldog brand) mixed together.

Tip: I use a small ice-cream scoop to form the meatballs, which I find is a quick and easy way to make the meatballs all a similar size.

Freeze the meatballs in small batches according to how many you would usually use.

Here's my homemade teriyaki sauce I use to glaze these meatballs. The quantity can glaze around 12 of my mini meatballs.

Teriyaki sauce
4 Tbsp soya sauce
3 Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp sugar

Mix all the ingredients together in a small frying pan, and heat over medium heat until bubbling. Keep the sauce bubbling (adjusting the heat lower if necessary) until the liquid reduces and thickens. Add the meatballs and coat with the sauce. (If you are defrosting the meatballs, make sure you fry them until the meatballs are fully heated through.)



Shani said...

I just have to say that your bentos are amazing. You inspire me to put more effort into making my bentos look nicer. I am very focused on the portions and balance of foods, but you prove that you can do that and make them look great too. I especially love your flowers. Thanks for the inspiration!!

Claudia said...

Hi Shani! Thank you so much for your lovely comment. You have inspired me to work even harder on my bento :) I must say though, that I don't make kyaraben style bento every day (that would be too tiring) and I enjoy making and eating more "simple" bento, as well :)

Obentolunch4kidz said...


These sounds amazing and I love foods that freeze and thaw easily without losing the taste!

Claudia said...

The glazing of the meatball with extra sauce after you defrost them also adds to any flavour lost in the freezing process.

I try to keep some of these meatballs on hand in the freezer all the time, and I do like how the tofu keeps them juicy. I find that they are also very handy when you run out of meat - I defrost them and mash them up so they become mince meat again, and use them in fried rice or even pasta/noodle dishes!

You can reduce the amount of tofu added; I just added 380g as the tofu I buy comes in that size and I use up the whole pack.