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!!

Step-by-Step Illustrations
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).


  1. 16

    The Ingredients lists 1 cup rock sugar (or 1/2 cup regular sugar) you don’t mention it in the Instructions. When do I put it in?

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  4. 15

    Great article!
    I uploaded your comments and photos to The World Food Guide website.

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  8. 14

    I always hear my friend (she’s from Shanghai) talking abt this dish – kaofu. She also cooked it before so that I could try it.

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  10. 13

    Happy Chinese New Year! I’ve seen this dish before but never had it before. Now that I read how to prepare it and what it is, I’m really curious to try this. I’m married to a Chinese but still A LOT to learn! 🙂

    • 13.1

      Thanks Nami happy Chinese New Year to you! I feel the same way you do about Japanese food. After visiting your site I realized I know so little about Japanese food

  11. 12

    A nutritious dish! I love them with some steamed buns!

  12. 11

    hiii Yi and Alice! hope you guys had a great x’mas and new years…and gearing up for the festive CNY ahead 😀 ive been kinda MIA lately…trying to spend less time online these days! 😛 but coming over to your site is always eye-opening hahaha. i LOVE kao-fu in restaurants but had abs no idea its made of wheat gluten and that it looks like what it looks like lol. looking forward to more of your upcoming CNY posts 😀

  13. 10

    Nihao Yi,

    Thanks for stopping by my website so I could find yours. I love your website so many delicious dishes and especially love your Kao Fu. I am hosting a Chinese New Years Party, here in Hong Kong, this weekend and am also bidding one of my very good Shanghai friend farewell. I think this would be a perfect dish to serve.
    Xian Nian Kuai Le!!! Take Care, BAM

  14. 9

    You know, I thought it was frozen tofu at first. 😀 The gluten must be so flavorful soaking up all the sauce.

  15. 8

    Wow, can’t believe Chinese New Year is in 2 weeks. The Kao Fu looks delicious. Wish I can have gluten. 🙂

  16. 7

    Love braised kao-fu both as appetizer and main dish. I also prefer it lightly seared than deep-fried.

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