Korean meat tofu patties (wanja-jeon) are a traditional Korean Chuseok dish, but they are also great for a lunchbox as well. We typically use ground pork, but you can substitute beef or chicken, too. Below are several handy tips for making and storing these tasty nuggets.

Korean mini patties made with ground pork and tofu are resting on a bamboo plate

Korean Chuseok is coming near, and I made these little meat tofu patties to celebrate. I recalled my childhood memories of Chuseok food as I made them. My mother made these little patties on the day before Chuseok every year. She often cooked them on an electric griddle and made a ton of these little yummies for her family and relatives.

These mini meat patties were only one of a variety of Korean holiday dishes that she pan-fried on the griddle. I usually sat down next to her to chat, and I would grab a few of these mini patties when they were piping hot off of the griddle. Oh, how delicious! The day before Korean Chuseok was a long, labor-intensive day for many Korean mothers. I thank my mother for the hard work and love she put into the food to feed her family and relatives for Chuseok.

What is Korean Chuseok?

Chuseok translates into Autumn Evening. It is one of the most significant Korean holidays along with New Year’s Day. Chuseok celebrates the fall harvest of the year. We give tribute and thanks to our ancestors for the abundance of the harvest and our prosperity.

It is a Korean way of celebrating our “Thanksgiving” with food and family. Extended families usually gather at the home of the eldest sibling (usually the first born son) and spend time together feasting and playing games.

MIni patties made with ground pork and tofu are served with rice and soup.

Korean Meat Tofu Patties (Wanja-jeon) for Chuseok

These mini meat patties have two names. Wanja-jeon (완자전, wanja = meatball) is the official “cuisine” name for these patties, but people often call them Dongeurang-ddeng (동그랑땡) because of their round shape (dongeurang = circle).

Jeon (전) refers to pan-fried dishes that are usually shaped into a certain form or into individual pieces. Most of them are coated with flour and egg batter, then pan-fried. They are commonly served for holidays like Chuseok or New Year’s Day in Korea. Along with these meat patties, Perilla Leaves Dumpling with Pork (Kkennip jeon), Beef and Rice Cake Skewers (sanjeok) and other kind of Jeon are widely consumed during the Chuseouk holiday.

What do Koreans eat in Chuseok?

Ingredients for Korean meat tofu patties are placed in bowls.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • ground meat – I used pork, but ground beef or chicken can also be used
  • tofu – use firm tofu and squeeze out the extra moisture
  • onion
  • carrot
  • mushroom – I used shiitake mushroom but any mushroom will work
  • leek or green onion
  • fresh chili – It adds a very subtle bit of heat (optional)
  • oyster sauce
  • sesame oil
  • eggs – to bind the patties and coat
  • flour – to coat the patties
  • oil – for pan-frying

Recipe Tips

  1. Ground pork is typically used, but you can substitute with ground beef or chicken. Some like to mix two different kind of meat for these patties.
  2. You will need to mince the vegetables very finely. I mean super-duper finely mince! Unless you have very good knife skills, a mini food chopper comes in handy and makes the job quick.
  3. A good ratio of meat and tofu would be 2:1 by weight. So if you are using 1 lb of meat, use 1/2 lb of tofu. I recommend using firm tofu for a chewier texture.
  4. Make sure to squeeze the moisture out of the tofu. You can press it down with a heavy object, but it takes time. I wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen cloth and squeeze the water out.
  5. Cook the patties on medium low to low heat. “Low and slow” is the key to cook these little guys evenly without making them too brown on the outside or under-cooked inside.
  6. After the first batch of patties are pan-fried, wipe out the residue left in the skillet with a paper towel before you cook the second batch. It will help you maintain a clean look for your patties without burnt pieces sticking to the surface.

How to make Korean Meat Tofu Patties

Step 1: Chop vegetables and mushroom.

Each should be about 1/4 cup in volume.

If you are skillful with a kitchen knife, mince the onion, carrot, mushroom, chili (if using), and leek (or green onion) super finely–or use a mini food chopper to do the work. Leeks (or green onion), however, won’t mince very well in a food chopper, so I recommend mincing them with a knife as finely as you can.

Step 2: Remove moisture from tofu

Place tofu in a fine kitchen cloth and twist it to squeeze the water out. Unfold the cloth and crumble the tofu.

Step 3: Make meat tofu patties

Mix pork, tofu, minced vegetables, mushroom, egg, garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, egg, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Knead the mixture for 2-3 minutes. Form them into meatballs using a small cookie scoop (1 1/2 tbsp). It will make about 3 dozen meatballs.

Step 4: Coat patties with flour and egg batter

Flatten each meatball a little to make a disk shape. Put flour in one shallow bowl (I used a pie dish) and the remaining eggs in another; beat the eggs. Coat them lightly with flour, followed by beaten eggs.

Step 5: Pan-fry in a skillet

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add patties and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Flip to the other side and cook another 3 minutes or until fully cooked. Adjust the heat to low if the patties brown too quickly.

After the first batch has been pan-fried, wipe the skillet with a paper towel to remove any residue in the skillet. This will help the next batch look clean, without burnt pieces sticking on the surface.

Start pan-frying the second batch and repeat the steps.

Korean meat patties are served with rice and spinach doenjang soup on the side.

Serving Suggestions

Serve meat tofu patties warm or at room temperature with a dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce: 2 tbsp soy sauce + 1 tbsp vinegar + 1/2 tsp sugar

I served my wanja-jeon with multi-grain rice and Korean Soup with Arugula and Potato. Typically these patties are served with rice and other Korean side dishes.

And do you know these patties are great for a lunchbox? So make a ton of them and store them in the freezer!

Korean meat and tofu patties are served over rice.

Storage Tips

Store leftover meat tofu patties in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They also freeze beautifully. Just put them in a zipper bag and freeze them up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw the patties first and fry them again in a bare skillet (no oil needed) over medium-low heat, or microwave them until hot.

More Korean Pork Recipes

If you are looking for Korean dinner recipes that uses pork, try these below. They are some of my favorites.

Korean meat tofu patties are served on a bamboo bastket with perilla leaves

Korean Meat Tofu Patties (Wanja-jeon)

Korean meat tofu patties (wanja-jeon) are a traditional Korean Chuseok dish, but they are also great for a lunchbox as well. You can use ground pork, beef, chicken, or mixture of any. Makes 3 dozen mini patties.
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground pork, beef, or chicken
  • 1/2 lb (1/2 pkg) firm tofu
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2-3 mushroom (I used shiitake mushroom)
  • 1/2 leek , or 2 green onion
  • 1 fresh green chili, seeded, (optional)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 eggs, divided
  • 1 cup flour, for coating
  • 4 tbsp oil

For dipping sauce

Instructions 

  • Mince onion, carrot, mushroom, leek (or green onion) super finely with a knife or use a mini food chopper. Leeks (or green onion), however, won't mince very well in a food chopper, so I recommend mincing them with a knife as finely as you can. You will need to collect 1/4 cup of each minced vegetable and mushroom. Set them aside.
  • Place tofu in a fine kitchen cloth and twist it to squeeze the water out. Unfold the cloth and crumble the tofu.
  • Mix ground meat, tofu, minced vegetables, mushroom, garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, egg, salt, pepper, and 1 egg in a mixing bowl. Knead the mixture for 2-3 minutes. Form them into meatballs using a small cookie scoop (1 1/2 tbsp). It will make about 3 dozen meatballs.
  • Put flour in one shallow bowl (I used a pie dish) and the remaining eggs in another; beat the eggs. Flatten each meatball a little to make a disk shape. Coat them lightly with flour, followed by beaten eggs.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add a few patties (without crowding the skillet too much) and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Flip to the other side and cook another 3 minutes or until fully cooked. Adjust the heat to low if the patties brown too quickly.
  • After the first batch has been pan-fried, wipe the skillet with a paper towel to remove any residue in the skillet. This will help the next batch look clean, without burnt pieces sticking on the surface. Start pan-frying the second batch and repeat the steps.
  • Serve meat tofu patties warm or at room temperature with a dipping sauce.
  • To make the dipping sauce, mix soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a small mixing bowl.
  • * Storage Tips: Store leftover meat tofu patties in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They also freeze beautifully. Just put them in a zipper bag and freeze them up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw the patties first and fry them again in a bare skillet (no oil needed) over medium-low heat, or microwave them until hot.
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