Hong Shao Kao Fu, (红烧烤麸) is a Shanghainese vegetarian cold appetizer. Kao fu is a form of wheat gluten, often sold dried, that tastes kind of like tofu. What a lot of people don’t know about Chinese food is the abundance of cold dishes often served before the main meal. This is one of those traditional dishes. If you’re a vegetarian, congratulations! You’ll really enjoy this.
My guess is that you don’t see this dish everyday…in fact, you probably never have. It’s not commonly served in Chinese restaurants around the U.S. unless you’re sitting in a really authentic Shanghainese place.
Don’t be alarmed! We must all face our fermented black beans, tofu puffs, and wood ear mushrooms with an open mind. These are ingredients used all the time in Chinese cooking, and can open up a whole new world of authentic Chinese cuisine in your kitchen.
Pick up a pack of kao fu dried wheat gluten (烤麸) in your local Chinese grocery store, dried or fresh (if using fresh, there’s no need to soak it). I made this dish in the afternoon so we could use natural daylight for photos, and the dish never made it to dinner table.
We ate everything right after the photo session. That’s how good it is! If you grew up eating this, you already know what I mean. Some people like this dish to be slightly sweeter, as is traditional. If you like, you can add a little more sugar to suit your tastes.
Here’s what the dried wheat gluten (kao fu) looks like before soaking. Looks kind of like a slice of stale bread.
Soak it in warm water, and once the kao fu is soft, rinse it under running water. Then cut each piece into 1-inch by 1-inch squares.
Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent sticking. Serve warm or cold (this is usually served as a cold dish).
Have you ever tried this dish or Shanghai Cuisine? We’d like to hear about it!
Hong Shao Kao Fu - Braised Wheat Gluten with Mushrooms
- 2 pieces dried wheat gluten/kao fu (about 5” x 5” each: Soak in warm water until soft)
- 12 dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in warm water until soft)
- 1/2 cup dried wood ear mushrooms (soaked in warm water until soft)
- 1/2 cup dried lily-flower (soaked in warm water until soft)
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 3 slices ginger
- ¼ cup raw or roasted unsalted peanuts (shelled and skins removed)
- 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 3 cups water
- Once the kao fu is soft, rinse it under running water. Then cut each piece into 1-inch by 1-inch squares. Rinse the mushrooms, wood ears, and lily flower. Drain and set aside.
- Heat oil in your wok over high heat. Add the ginger and fry for 30 seconds. Add the kao fu, and cook until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, wood ear, lily flower, and peanuts. Mix everything well. Then add the wine, soy sauces, sugar, and water. Stir well and bring to a boil.
- Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent sticking. Serve warm or cold (this is usually served as a cold dish).