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!