Pan-fried meat and tofu patties

Wanja-jeon 완자전

Today’s recipe is for pan-fried meat and tofu patties, called wanja-jeon in Korean. They’re savory, soft, and juicy with a meaty texture. It’s an all-time favorite item in Korean lunch boxes, but also for special occasions, too.

This recipe is pretty easy and made with inexpensive ingredients. You can make a big plate of wanja-jeon with just a bit of ground meat and a few things in your fridge like vegetables, tofu, and eggs. I use ground beef in this recipe but ground pork or mixture of ground pork and beef will also work well.

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On special occasions in Korea, we often make a lot of wanja-jeon along with other pancakes made with pollock, shrimp, and vegetables. When friends and neighbors come over, we serve them generously with fruits and desserts. The leftover wanjajeon can be kept in the freezer for up to a month, so when you want some, all you have to do is thaw some out, pan-fry a little, and serve.

I like my wanja-jeon yellow and beautiful, so for me it’s key not to turn the heat up so high that they brown.  And you really have to keep an eye on them!

Good luck making wanja-jeon!

wanjajeon-dosirak (완자전 도시락)This dosirak is made with multigrain rice, wanja-jeon, stir-fried snap peas, spicy tiny anchovies, pickled green chili peppers, and a spinach side dish.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground beef (or pork or mixture of pork and beef)
  • 4 ounces of tofu, squeezed out excess water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped carrot
  • salt
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or vegetable oil)
  • dill for garnish (optional)

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Directions

Make meat mixture:

  1. Combine ground beef, tofu, onion, garlic, green onion, carrot, 1 teaspoon salt, soy sauce, ground black pepper, sesame oil and 1 egg in a bowl.
  2. Mix well by hand until the mixture gets a little sticky.Wanja-jeon (Pan-fried meat & tofu patties: 완자전)

Shape:

  1. Divide the mixture into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball between your palms, then flatten into 2 inch disk and ¼ inch thick
  2. Put the flour into a shallow bowl. Coat each patty with flour. Transfer to a platter. Repeat it with the rest of patties. 
    Wanja-jeon (Pan-fried meat & tofu patties: 완자전)

Pan-fry:

  1. Beat 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
  2. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add some oil and tilt the pan to spread it around.
  3. Working in batches, dip each patty in the beaten egg and place in the pan, one by one.Wanja-jeon (Pan-fried meat & tofu patties: 완자전)
  4. Cook for about 1 minute until the bottom part turns light golden brown. Flip it over and cook for a few more minutes until the bottom part turns a little crunchy and light golden brown. Add more oil to the pan as needed.Wanja-jeon (Pan-fried meat & tofu patties: 완자전)
  5. Turn and cook for another 30 seconds and transfer to a serving platter. Serve the patties hot or at room temperature.Wanja-jeon (Pan-fried meat & tofu patties: 완자전)

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18 Comments:

  1. Sophie85 NY joined 10/16 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi
    I want to try to add more veggies for my kids, which one would you recommend? Maybe zucchini? Do you think spinach would work well with this patties? Thank you!

  2. mobiniana San Francisco joined 3/15 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi! This recipe was so delicious!!! This is my new favorite recipe for my lunch boxes. (: Could this recipe be made with only tofu? I would love to learn how to substitute the meat to make a vegetarian version for my friends and family! <3 Happy cooking.

  3. Kaseixjaa Connecticut joined 4/16 & has 2 comments

    Hey Maangchi!
    I made this recipe tonight, and it came out pretty good. I have a couple questions though: I had a hard time getting my meat to shape into patties. Do I need to knead the meat longer next time? Secondly, I enjoyed the taste but want the veggies inside to be less crunchy next time, do you have any suggestions?
    Thanks a bunch. I can’t wait to try some more of your recipes. :)

    • Tediono New Jersey, USA joined 12/11 & has 2 comments

      Hey Kaseixjaa!

      For the patties not holding shape, I would first make sure you use firm tofu since it’ll be easier to squeeze out all the excess water because any moisture in the tofu will make it harder for the patties to bind and hold shape. If you still find it hard for them to hold shape you can add a pinch of flour to help it bind. As for the veggies if you don’t want them as crunchy I would suggest giving them a quick saute in a pan, but make sure you drain any excess oil or moisture that had cooked out and to also let them cool completely before adding it into the mixture. Hope that helps! Happy cooking! -Teddy

  4. wvtram San Jose, California joined 5/16 & has 3 comments

    hi maangchi!

    just a quick question; can you replace the firm tofu with silken tofu?

    thanks, warren

    • sanne Munich joined 8/14 & has 188 comments

      Theoretically, yes – since firm tofu is further pressed silken tofu…
      But you won’t have much left after you got rid of excess water there. ;-)
      If it’s ok for you to use milk-products with meat, you could use “Topfen” (pressed quark) instead.

      Bye, Sanne.

  5. tygerstryped singapore joined 1/14 & has 3 comments

    hi maangchi! i made these tonight and they were very easy and relaxing to make :3 i used a mix of beef and pork since we had some leftover minced pork. i wasnt able to get them as pretty and yellow as yours, but they tasted delicious! thank you for your recipe!


    See full size image

  6. RosalinaS Indonesia joined 2/16 & has 8 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    I have made this and my family loveed it.. the shape looks like “perkedel” (a traditional food from Indonesia which is made from potato as base ingredient)..

    Thank you Maangchi!!


    See full size image

  7. Andrew Wellington, New Zealand joined 4/11 & has 6 comments

    Dear Maangchi,

    I’m sad I missed you when you came to New Zealand. I was in Tonga when you were there.

    Congratulations on your success!

    This recipe is very delicious. I tried before dongeurangtaeng. Is it the same type of food?

  8. limon04 france joined 4/16 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi !
    I discover your site few months ago and now i am an addict of corean food .
    Thank’s for all recipes.

  9. MikeyD United States joined 4/16 & has 1 comment

    Is 80% lean ground beef appropriate for this recipe or would 93% lean be a better choice?
    I’ve made quite a few dishes from your recipes and they always get eaten very quickly.

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