Kao Fu (烤麩) – Wheat Gluten Made Delicious
For most of us living in the States, watching that last Christmas tree turn into mulches in a wood chipper truly marks the end of the holiday seasons.
However for the Chinese around the world, the holidays are just about to start. Chinese New Year, the most celebrated holiday in Chinese culture, falls on January 23rd this year. It is the year of Dragon.
Although the Chinese New Year celebration is still weeks away, I am already so looking forward to it. At the end of the day, who can say no to all that festival food and celebratory spirit!
In the posts leading to the Chinese New Year, I will be sharing some traditional and non-traditional recipes I’d like to serve for this year’s big festival, including today’s recipe.
Wheat gluten is used extensively in Chinese cuisine as a meat substitute. It is commonly made from washing wheat flour dough everything dissolved but gluten. It looks like a sponge and it can be purchased in either dried block or frozen form in Chinese supermarket.
The braised wheat gluten or commonly called Kao Fu (烤麩) in Chinese is a well known Shanghainese dish. It’s served as a chilled appetizer in every Shanghainese restaurant I’ve been to. The gluten is braised with a few other ingredients in a sweet and savory sauce for a long time so it absorbs all the good flavors.
The traditional recipe calls for daylily flowers which I am not a fan of so I conveniently skipped it. I also skipped the deep frying the gluten step. Instead I opted for the healthier pan fry method.
This is sort of obvious but I feel obligated to stress: if you are allergic to gluten, please stay away from this dish!!
Dice the gluten to 1 x 1 cubes. Or hand tear it random shapes.
Blanch the diced gluten in boiling water
Fry the gluten until brown
Add bamboo, shiitake mushroom, wood ear mushroom, and peanuts.
Add ginger, soy sauce, cooking wine, five spice powder and the stock (or water).
Simmer for an hour and reduce the liquid to minimum.
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Kao Fu (烤麩) (for 4 servings)
- 1 block frozen gluten, about 10oz
- 10 oz bamboo shoot, diced
- 4 shiitake mushroom, softened in water and diced to the size of bamboo
- ½ cup skinless peanuts, soaked in water for 1 hr
- ½ cup woodear mushroom, softened in water and cut
- 4 slice ginger
- 2 tbsp soy sauce + 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- ½ cup cooking wine
- ½ cup of stock or water
- 1 cup rock sugar (or 1/2 cup regular sugar)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp five spice powder
- 1 tsp sesame oil
1. Add 1 tbsp salt to the boiling water. Blanch the diced gluten in boiling water for no more than 30 seconds. Drain the water in a colander by gently pressing the gluten.
2. Grease the entire wok with 3 tbsp of cooking oil over medium heat. Add the gluten and fry it until the surface turns slight brown and a little hard. About 3 minutes. Fold the gluten frequently to prevent sticking.
3. Add bamboo, shiitake mushroom, wood ear mushroom, and peanuts. Then mix in ginger, soy sauce, cooking wine, five spice powder and the stock (or water). Also add half tbsp of salt. Once it’s boiled, lower the heat and let it simmer with a lid on for an hour. Mix the ingredients occasional during the simmer. Add more liquid if gets too dry.
4. After an hour, turn the heat back to medium to reduce the liquid to minimum. Add another ½ tbsp of salt or to your taste. Mix in the sesame oil at the very end.
You can serve it immediately as a hot dish. Or chill the kao fu in the fridge for a few hours and served it as a cold appetizer (recommended).