Mimic The Flavors of Char Siu Pork in This Vegetarian Recipe

April 6, 2018

With the abundance of ingredients now readily available, eating vegetarian food isn’t as difficult as it used to be. With all the condiments, spices, and sauces around, the stigma that veggie-centric dishes are often flavorless no longer rings true. Even the carnivorous meat-heads here at Pepper are slowly succumbing to the wiles of humble vegetables, or alternatives such as tempeh and tofu.

In this particular recipe, it’s all about the marinade, which imparts maximum flavor onto a protein that can often be bland. The combination of hoisin, honey, soy sauce, five spice, and Chinese cooking wine is a traditional one, and leaving the dense curds in the solution overnight, makes its pores absorb all of that liquid. It may not taste exactly like char siu, but it does mimic the spiced, caramelized sweetness of the Chinese recipe. Pile it into a soft steamed bun, have it in a rice bowl with a bunch of peanuts and fresh spring onions as garnish—vegetarian food has never been more accessible.

Char Siu Tofu

  • Serves: 4-8
  • Active time: 30 mins
  • Total time: 30 mins plus overnight
  • Difficulty: Easy


Char Siu Tofu

  • 500g firm tofu
  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 tsp five spice


  • 6 bao buns, steamed
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, picked
  • ½ cup peanuts, toasted and crushed


  1. Divide the 500g block of tofu in half crosswise,
    then into about 16 squares.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the hoisin sauce,
    honey, soy sauce, cooking wine, and five spice.
  3. Take the prepped tofu and place into the char siu
    marinade, flipping to coat, and marinade in the
    refrigerator overnight.
  4. The next day, take the pieces of tofu and drain
    excess marinade, resting the pieces on paper
  5. Take the excess marinade and place in a small
  6. Heat the marinade over high heat until boiling,
    thick, and sticky, about 5-8 minutes. Set aside.
  7. Lightly oil a grill and place it over high heat.
  8. Grill the tofu until cooked and charred, about 3-4
    minutes each side.
  9. Remove from heat.
  10. In a steamed bao bun, and two pieces of char siu
    tofu, sauce, cilantro, and crushed peanuts.
  11. Repeat with remaining bao buns and serve.
Pamela Cortez Pamela Cortez

Pamela Cortez writes about food full-time, and has honed her craft while writing for publications such as Rogue, Town and Country, and The Philippine Star. She once rode on a mule for a mile just to eat mint tea and lamb in Morocco, and has eaten a block of Quickmelt in one sitting. Her attempt at food photography can be viewed online @meyarrr.

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