Good vegetarian burgers can be difficult to find. Even nice-tasting patties can lose their appeal when they fall apart and turn to burger sludge on your plate or barbecue. Matthew Andrews is a chef who knows a thing or two about burgers of the non-meat kind; he stopped eating meat in his teens and is now head chef and owner of Melbourne's Munsterhaus.
200g firm tofu
200g okara* (or substitute 200g bread crumbs or 200g tempeh)
100g tapioca starch
2 eggs (or 20ml mirin for vegan option)
Besan flour to coat burgers (chick pea flour)
* Okara is cooked, ground soy beans and is a byproduct of tofu and soy milk production. It has a fluffy, slightly moist texture. Andrews likes to use it in burgers because of its binding properties, good texture and high protein content (about 28 per cent). However, it can be difficult to source (see Andrews' tips on sourcing okara at bottom of this recipe).
** Use mirin instead of eggs for vegan version, and tempeh or okara instead of bread crumbs for gluten-free version.
For Mediterranean-flavoured burger:
50g tomato paste
3 tsp minced garlic
10g mushroom stock
3 tsp minced basil
Salt and pepper to taste
For Asian-flavoured burger:
100g sweet potato
20g mushroom stock
50g peanut butter
50g ground ginger and garlic
3 tsp chilli sauce (hot or sweet)
10g arame (mild seaweed)
Blitz the tofu, okara (bread crumbs or tempeh) and tapioca starch in a food processor until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
Combine with remaining ingredients by hand in a mixing bowl.
Form patties about 15mm thick by hand, then coat with besan flour. (Besan flour is available at Indian grocers. It will give the burgers a nice crust and will not discolour the pattie.)
Fry on a well-oiled hotplate or frypan on a low heat.
Cook for about five minutes on each side until patties are golden brown.
Tip: After the first 10 seconds of frying, slide a spatula under the burger to release it from the pan and to prevent it sticking.
Notes on sourcing okara:
Fresh okara is not typically sold in retail grocery stores. To buy fresh okara you will have to find a soy milk producer, or a tofu producer (Melbourne's Tofu Shop International in Richmond will give okara to customers who buy their tofu). You could also try asking for leads at an all-natural grocery store or, call a local restaurant that serves tofu and ask if they make their tofu in-house.
Buying dried okara
Okara has a very short shelf life (much like tofu and soy milk). If you do find okara in a retail market it will most likely be dried. Look for dried okara in Japanese or Asian food markets. Okara (a Japanese name) goes by many different names - soy pulp, kirazu, unohana, douzha, ampas tahu - so be patient and persistent in your search. Dried okara can be easily reconstituted for recipes that call for fresh okara.
If you can't find a nearby venue that makes their own tofu or an Asian supermarket that sells dried okara, another option is to make your own. Soybeans can be bought at your local grocer, and you can make tofu and soy milk in your own kitchen. Both produce okara as a byproduct.