Recipe: Pipa Tofu (Fried Tofu Shrimp Balls)

DarwinDiscovered_PipaTofu-10Tofu. Shrimp. Fried-ness. What’s not to love? You probably won’t find pipa tofu on your standard Chinese carryout menu (but are you really eating that crap? *puts on judging goggles*). If you’re at a higher end restaurant you might see it on the menu- if not, ask the waiter and they will hopefully know what you’re talking about. Or you could take off your lazy pants and whip this up at home. I made these for a friend that stayed with us for the weekend a while back, and she asked to eat leftovers of this for two meals (in addition to dinner). Yea, they’re pretty tasty.

But first off, the question you’ve all been wondering: what is a ‘pipa’? Good question, friends. A pipa (pronounced PEE -pah) is a traditional Chinese string instrument that looks like so:


Pipa tofu is named after the pipa’s shape, but in reality I think the tofu ends up taking on an oval shape as it gets fried. Maybe that’s just a commentary on my frying abilities.








DarwinDiscovered_PipaTofu-9Basically you gather some ingredients together, mash them all up, form them into little pipa shapes – *cough* oval – and fry. You can deep fry the tofu, and it will taste amazeballs. Or you can opt for the healthier option and pan fry them instead. They’ll still taste amazeballs. Your call.

DarwinDiscovered_PipaTofu-8 Serve the pipa tofu on a bed of bok choy or Shanghai bok choy, and accompanying sauce on top.

Ingredients and recipe after the jump.

Pipa Tofu (serves 4-6)


1 pack soft tofu, rinsed and drained
3/4 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped
4-5 medium shitake mushrooms, finely diced
2 green onions, finely sliced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rice wine
1 teaspoon white pepper
4 tablespoons cornstarch


1 cup chicken stock
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons cornstarch


3 heads baby bok choy or Shanghai bok choy, steamed
2-3 cups Vegetable oil for pan frying; add extra if deep frying

1. Mash the tofu in a medium-large mixing bowl. You can use a potato masher, spoon, food processor, or a muddler.
2. Add shrimp, mushrooms, green onion, soy sauce, salt, white pepper, rice wine, and cornstarch. Mix thoroughly.
3. Mold the ‘pipa’ by shaping the tofu in soup spoons, or roll into balls. If mixture has difficulty sticking, add a little extra cornstarch.
4. Heat a pan or deep fryer w/ oil.
5. Gently place tofu into oil. Cook approximately 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove with a slated spoon and place on paper towel to remove excess oil.
6. Arrange bok choy around plate, place tofu in center.
7. To make sauce: In a small saucepan, heat stock to a boil. Lower heat and gradually stir in egg whites. Mix in cornstarch and continue stirring until sauce reaches a gravy consistency. Remove from heat and pour over tofu and bok choy.

Tofu and shrimp are the mainstays of my version of pipa tofu, but I’ve seen other pretenders versions that call for ground pork instead of shrimp, which could also work. Feel free to adapt this recipe to your needs and make it your own. What else would you add to your pipa tofu?

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