Vegetarian Char Siu Recipe (Tofu Xa Xiu)


If you’ve been to an Asian market, you’ve probably noticed the long pieces of Chinese-style barbecue meat glistening with red sauce on hangers. The red sauce is char siu sauce (in Vietnamese, it’s called xá xíu). Since my husband Lulu is a vegetarian, I made a tofu version and coated the fried tofu with the sweet sauce. It’s made with honey (but I used date syrup for a darker color), hoisin sauce, reduced soy sauce, dry sherry (optional), fresh ginger, five spice powder and sesame oil. I added a little red food coloring to reach the typical char siu color but really, it’s up to you. To finish the dish I sautéed the tofu with shiitake mushrooms and red and green onions.

I didn’t miss eating meat at all, but of course, you could use the sauce on a pork tenderloin and generously baste the meat with the eye-catching sauce, if you prefer.

1. Info for Vegetarian Char Siu Recipe (Tofu Xa Xiu)

  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Servings: 8
  • Calories: 408kcal

2. Ingredients for Vegetarian Char Siu Recipe (Tofu Xa Xiu)

  • 2 (12-ounce) packages firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 red onion, half chopped, the rest cut into thin wedges
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, cut in thirds
  • ¼ cup date syrup (or honey)
  • 1 pinch red food coloring powder (optional)
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce (or oyster sauce)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, to taste
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

3. Directions:

  1. Prepping the ginger: Peel the ginger with a paring knife, thinly slice it, then cut into long matchsticks. Set aside.
  2. Prepping the tofu: Cut the tofu into 1-inch slices. In a wok, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Pan-fry the pieces of tofu on both sides until golden. The tofu should have a nice fried outer crust and still be moist inside. Transfer the tofu onto paper towels. Once the tofu pieces are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters. Set aside. Making char siu sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the date syrup (or honey) and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add hoisin sauce (or oyster sauce), five-spice powder, red food coloring (if used) and dry sherry (if used). Stir well and set aside.
  3. In the same wok, add the rest of the oil. Once it’s hot, add the chopped red onion. Cook until fragrant, then add the garlic and ginger. As the garlic becomes slightly golden, add the tofu and stir fry until fragrant. Transfer the tofu to a platter, leaving as much oil as possible in the wok.
  4. Add the mushrooms. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until until they become shiny. Transfer to a platter.
  5. Add the char siu sauce and ½ cup water. Once the sauce thickens, add the fried tofu and chili garlic sauce. Stir-fry for about 3-4 minutes. Return the shiitake mushrooms and the onion wedges to the wok . Stir constantly.
  6. Check seasoning. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro. Toss well. Drizzle with sesame oil.
  7. Serve immediately with steamed rice.
  8. Bon appétit!

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