Textured vegetable or soy protein (TVP/TSP) goes by the name of soia ristrutturata (restructured soy) in Italy and labeled bocconcini or spezzatini di soia (soy morsels or small pieces) on supermarket shelves. When the mood hits we like Sojasun Burgers (the french answer to Boca Burgers), but at 3.50€+ for 2 patties I needed to find a less costly alternative. Many veggie burger recipes call for the use of legumes, beans, grains or the combination of all three so I figured that if I just took my cue from the listed ingredients on Sojasun, the rest would come easy. It did, and because the cooked burgers freeze well, we can go meatless at a moment’s notice.
Before I continue, I should add that a food processor makes quick work of the fine chopping required in this recipe. Onions and rehydrated soy protein all need to be chopped to the texture of ground beef. The red bell pepper needs to be minced. A wide steamer also helps when making the whole recipe as it’s probably best to stack the patties not more than four high (keeps the bottom ones from compacting too much).
TVP burgers | Soia burgers (makes 8)
1 and 1/2 cups (66 grams) textured soy protein
2 cups vegetable broth (500 ml)
1 medium round onion (8 ounces), quartered
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, cubed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups wheat gluten/gluten flour (farina di glutine in Italy)
1/2 cup soy, chickpea, or chestnut flour
2 tablespoons chopped chives, dried
1 tablespoon oregano, dried (or use whatever you like)
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper
Bring the broth to a boil, turn off the heat source, and add the TVP. Set aside to cool while the soy rehydrates. In the meantime, process the onion until very finely chopped and some juice starts to run out. Add the bell pepper and process until minced. When the soy protein has cooled down, add (liquid included) to the processor and pulse/blend until the mixture resembles the texture of ground beef. Next, add the tomato paste and olive oil and pulse to blend.
Combine wheat gluten, soy flour, herbs and spices and add to the soy protein mixture. Pulse until thoroughly combined, adding water (a tablespoon or so) if it seems too dry. You want a mixture that is moist enough to hold together when shaping into patties. Divide equally into 8 portions and form into approximately 5/8-inch thick patties. Examples below: hand-shaped or pressed into 4-inch tart pans lined with baking parchment. The latter results in a perfect disc resembling brand-name patties.
You can either wrap the tart pan burgers individually with parchment or stack them 4 high with a square of parchment between each pan. Wrap the whole stack with aluminum foil if separating with parchment slips (don’t forget to cover the top burger with a piece of parchment), as you don’t need any more liquid from the steam getting inside. Individually wrapped patties can be stacked one atop the other without the extra step of wrapping in foil. Bring an inch of water to a low simmer, cover and steam for 40 minutes.
When the burgers are done, allow to cool completely, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Plan on using them within a couple of days because I don’t know how long they’ll keep, or if freezing will dry them out too much. To serve, heat on a cast-iron or non-stick skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Ridged cast-iron pans imparts better flavor and gives that “grilled” look.
The beauty of making these is that textured soy is such a bland ingredient that you can jazz it up with anything you like. Substitute the above-mentioned herbs with basil or parsley. Add special flavor with cumin, caraway seeds or exotic spice blends. The pièce de résistance during this TVP experiment was turning the Loco Moco – a veritable staple of Hawaii’s local cuisine (right up there next to Spam) – into something that is several hundred calories less in fat. While the egg still secures its spot on the top, the brown gravy is total vegan. Hawaii health nuts, I introduce to you the Loco Moco Lite!
For the gravy: stir together 1 cup water, 2 tbsps nutritional yeast flakes, 2-3 teaspoons shoyu (depends on your salt preference) and a good pinch of ground black pepper. Heat over a low flame and thicken with arrowroot powder or cornstarch slurry.