If you like eating dumplings or fritters, you’ll enjoy ganmodoki, or ganmo for short. Mellow yet with a rich, umami flavour, these small, tofu-based fritters pack a tasty punch. Shaped into patties or rectangular pieces, ganmodoki are made from bits of crumbled bean curd, sesame seeds, seaweed, slivered vegetables like carrot, lotus root, burdock and mushroom, and bound with grated mountain yam (yamaimo). The tofu acts as a neutral base, allowing the different flavours of the other ingredients to shine through.
Deep-fried till golden brown, ganmodoki are delicious on their own. A simple way to eat them is to dip them in soya sauce with grated fresh ginger. Ganmodoki can also be used in miso soup or simmered dishes like oden hot pot.
Its sheer versatility as an ingredient has made it a popular dish for many, many years. And rightly so—ganmodoki, which means “like a wild goose (gan)”, has been a part of shojin ryori, or traditional vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, for centuries.
Some people say that the fritters originated in temples and monasteries in the 1400s. At that time, the nobles loved eating wild goose, a prized delicacy. Monks, however, were forbidden to eat meat, so they created ganmodoki to taste like goose. Others believe that the dish originated after people who had sampled these tofu fritters, fried by the monks, were so delighted by their flavour that they declared them to taste as good as the best wild goose.
In the Kansai region in cities like Osaka and Kyoto, the fritters are called hiryozu, meaning “flying dragon heads”, because the vegetables sometimes peek out of the tofu