Char Siu Tofu

Char siu tofu is an absolutely brilliant way to prepare a vegan entrée that will even knock the socks off of the tofu-averse. The sweet and savory sauce is made with ginger, five-spice powder, garlic, hoisin, and Shaoxing wine. Bathing the tofu in it plays up the crispy and creamy textures.

A white platter filled with slices of tofu covered in a dark sauce, sesame seeds, and chives, beside a plate of dumplings, a spoon filled with sesame seeds, and a pair of chopsticks.

Adapted from Jeeca Uy | Vegan Asian | Page Street Publishing, 2021

These are slices of tofu cooked down in a rich, sweet, and savory sauce. This dish is delicious as is, but is best enjoyed with a bowl of steamed rice or with freshly cooked noodles. The slices are also delicious when placed in steamed buns to make Char Siu Tofu Gua Baos. The sauce is deliciously savory with a perfect balance of sweetness and a hint of spice.–Jeeca Uy

Char Siu Tofu

A white platter filled with slices of tofu covered in a dark sauce, sesame seeds, and chives, beside a plate of dumplings, a spoon filled with sesame seeds, and a pair of chopsticks.
This makes a delicious meal packed with all the tasty flavors. This is packed with very bold flavors with a nice kick of heat. I enjoy the tofu with lots of rice to scoop up all that sauce.
Jeeca Uy

Prep 10 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 40 mins
Entree
Asian
2 servings
450 kcal
No ratings yet
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Ingredients 

For the tofu

  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

For the char siu sauce

  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce*
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons dark brown sugar plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons store-bought or homemade Sriracha

To serve

  • Toasted sesame seeds optional
  • Chopped scallions optional
  • Blanched vegetables steamed rice and/or buns

Directions
 

Prepare the tofu

  • Using a tofu press or weighted plate, press tofu for at least 10 minutes to drain any excess liquid.
  • Turn tofu block on its side, slice through block to make 1-inch (2.5-cm) thick slabs. You will have 2 to 3 slabs depending on the size and thickness of your tofu.

Make the char siu sauce

  • In a small bowl, mix together all the sauce ingredients.
  • Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Once hot, add tofu slabs in a single layer. Pan-fry tofu until lightly browned on each side, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  • Remove tofu from skillet and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing each slab into 1-inch (2.5-cm)-thick strips.
  • In the same skillet over medium heat, add the sauce and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to medium. Stir to prevent sugar from sticking and burning. Taste sauce and add more sugar, if desired.
  • Add sliced tofu to skillet, scoop sauce over tofu pieces. Continue to cook and baste tofu until it has absorbed some of the sauce, 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Increase heat to high and cook until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Garnish tofu with sesame seeds and scallions, if desired. Enjoy the Char Siu Tofu as is, with blanched veggies, with rice, or as filling for buns to make gua baos.
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Notes

*What is hoisin sauce?

For this char siu tofu recipe, you should have everything you need, with the exception of one key ingredient: hoisin. Hoisin is a thick, dark sauce that’s packed with a range of flavors like ginger, cinnamon, garlic, soy, and sesame. Fragrant and pungent, it’s often thought of as the Chinese version of barbecue sauce. And it’s incredibly delicious. 
Most brands of hoisin are vegan, but read the ingredients if you’re sticking to a vegan diet.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 450kcal (23%)Carbohydrates: 17g (6%)Protein: 22g (44%)Fat: 32g (49%)Saturated Fat: 3g (19%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 12gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 641mg (28%)Potassium: 68mg (2%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 7g (8%)Vitamin A: 11IUVitamin C: 4mg (5%)Calcium: 302mg (30%)Iron: 3mg (17%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This recipe description is so bang-on, that if the description appeals to you, you need to make this. In fact, this is the tofu recipe you serve your friends that claim they do not like tofu. They’ll be converted!

A white platter with slices of tofu in a deep red sauce, with 3 withe rice balls, all covered with sesame seeds, green onions, and pea shoots.

I started with firm tofu and because I do own a tofu press [I hear my friends’ voices saying “of course you do”], it was easy to drain the tofu to an almost extra-firm texture. I did this for 30 minutes just because I had the time. Whatever you do, don’t skip this very important step. Wet tofu is like a wet steak that will just steam when heat is applied. You need tofu that barely weeps a drop of fluid when dabbed with a paper towel. This will provide you with that indispensable crust and browning that has both flavour and a meaty texture with a creamy interior.

Once I had fried the tofu, it felt like the remaining oil was superfluous. This step is not indispensable but I did remove 1 tablespoon of the original 3 tablespoons of grapeseed oil and I didn’t miss this extra fat. I also replaced the brown sugar with a brown sugar and sweetener mix only because my brown sugar had hardened and I didn’t feel like going through the steps of softening it. This was so successful that I do recommend this for those trying to cut down on calories. The depth of sweetness and level of caramelization wasn’t affected.

The most indulgent part of this char siu tofu was bathing and layering the tofu in the sauce. Honestly, turning the batons of tofu and covering them with sauce felt like I was applying the outer layer of chocolate on a Mars bar… and that was just the execution… biting into the tofu enveloped in the char siu sauce was as delectable as eating a picante dessert… trust me!

I served the tofu topped with 1 tablespoon of toasted white sesame seeds and 2 tablespoons of sliced scallion greens for flavor and colour. I chose to pair the tofu with steamed rice topped with a hot pepper brunoise and black sesame seeds. The heat in the sauce was just right with the 2 teaspoons of Sriracha because I knew I wanted to use my first garden hot pepper in the rice. Had my rice been plain, I would have added a third teaspoon of Sriracha for an extra bit of heat. This part is an individual preference, and as a bonus, the recipe offers other choices of sides.

My meatless Mondays and char siu tofu are going to be great friends!

I am ever on the hunt for really good tofu recipes that I can serve on a weeknight or for a dinner party. This recipe for char siu tofu fits the bill. The sauce is wonderful and works so well with the texture of the extra-firm tofu.

I did make one change to the recipe. I put the tofu on its side and cut it into 2 slabs as the recipe calls for. I then cut each slab into 1-inch slices so when I browned the 1 x 1 x 4-inch slices of tofu, each piece was slightly crisp on all four sides and soft on the inside. This also allowed each piece to be in the sauce on all sides. I served this with white rice and sprinkled the tofu with toasted sesame seed and scallion. Delicious. My family declared this a definite make again.

I’m not exactly sure where to start with this review except BOOM! Flavour bomb! This char siu tofu is ridiculously delicious and really easy to make. The sauce is savory with a hint of spice that reminds me of Peking duck so I can see this sauce also pairing well with duck or pork.

The way the tofu was prepared came out perfectly, slightly crispy on the outside even though it was smothered in sauce and tender (not mushy) in the middle. My boyfriend who turns his nose up to tofu ate half of it on its own, no rice even though I made a side dish of steamed rice for him. But to be truthful, I ate the other half just as quick on its own. I’ll definitely be making this again and next time I’ll try it with steamed buns.

A wonderful, relatively healthy weeknight meal has landed. Even with the 30 minutes of draining the tofu, this dish was on the table in about an hour. The sauce obviously is the star here, and it was a wonderful balance of sweet, savory, and spicy. Next time I might use a little less sugar and a little more Sriracha, but that’s just me.

I think the toasted sesame seeds on top should not be a suggestion, and if I had scallions, I would have used them too. I could imagine how they might add a nice flavor. A bowl of steamed rice on the side is also a must. Or, we simply served the char sui tofu right on the rice. That way the rice caught some of the sauce too. Nothing complicated or tricky here, just good flavors, brought together quickly. With the rice and side of grilled green beans, this dish was filling!

This char siu tofu was an outstanding and easy vegan dinner. We loved the texture and flavor imparted from the sauce in so little time. Pan-frying the tofu in planks gives crisp meaty edges while also leaving the interior exposed to soak in the sauce after you slice it. Start pressing the tofu, start a pot of white rice, and then the tofu should be done when the rice is finished. We served ours with spinach that was sautéed in ginger-scallion sauce.

Originally published on August 31, 2021

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