Tofu Fritters (Pipa Tofu)

Photo 1. Tofu Fritters (Pipa Tofu)

Savory, light, and fluffy: this is the perfect tofu dish to serve to people who have not made up their minds about tofu. These fritters are sure to win over new recruits. Pipa tofu are sometimes served with a light gravy made with chicken stock flavored with soy or oyster sauce and thickened with corn starch. I think they taste fine all by themselves and that’s how I serve them.

The dish gets its name from the Chinese lute-like instrument called the pipa. These oval tofu fritters resemble the pear-shaped body of the pipa.

After you have chopped, minced and mashed all the ingredients, combine them in a mixing bowl but don’t mix in the egg until the very end. The characteristic oval shape is achieved by steaming the mixture in porcelain soup spoons. Steaming sets the dumplings so that they are easier to manipulate in the skillet.

Tofu Fritters (Pipa Tofu)
Recipe type: appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • 5 dried black mushroom, finely chopped
  • 1 block of tofu, about 14 oz. or 400 g., medium or firm
  • ¼ pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon carrot, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons pancetta, finely chopped (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • oil for frying
  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in water until soft, about 30 minutes. Cut off the stems and mince the caps.
  2. Mash the tofu with a fork or a potato masher (see Photo 3).
  3. Use a cleaver or a food processor to chop the shrimp into a fine paste (see Photo 4).
  4. Combine the tofu, the shrimp and all the remaining ingredients except the egg. Mix until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stir the egg into the mixture.
  6. Fill porcelain soup spoons with the tofu mixture: use a metal teaspoon to scoop the mixture into the porcelain spoons; shape the mixture with the back of the teaspoon.
  7. Place the filled porcelain spoons on a plate. Each plate can accommodate about 6 porcelain spoons (see Photo 5). Steam for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove the plate from the steamer and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  9. Using a metal spoon, carefully pry the tofu mixture out of the porcelain spoons.
  10. Heat a skillet and add enough cooking oil to coat the surface. Fry over medium heat for three minutes on each side. The surface should be a golden brown and slightly crisply.
  11. Makes 18-24 fritters that will serve 4-6 people in a multicourse dinner.
  12. Serve immediately.
1. Bacon bits, Virginia ham, or any dry ham can be substituted for the pancetta. 2. Utensils used in this recipe: steamer, skillet, spatula, cleaver or chef's knife, grater, potato masher or fork, mixing bowl, porcelain soup spoons

Photo 2. Chopped ingredients. Clockwise from top right: pancetta, scallions, carrots, cilantro.

Photos 3 and 4. Left, mashed tofu; right, shrimp paste.

Photo 5. Tofu mixture in steamer.


English name Tofu Fritter (Pipa Tofu)
Chinese name 琵琶豆腐
Cantonese (Jyutping) pei4 paa4 dau6 fu6