I do not expect many readers to try this recipe as you may not be able to get the ingredients in Singapore (pardon me if I am wrong), but my objective of introducing reader this unique cooking ingredient would have achieved if readers finished reading this post.
This is a very popular cold dish appetizer that is served in Shanghainese restaurant. Asking any Shanghainese, I do not think there is anyone who do not know this dish. I am not Shanghainese, but I have stayed in Shanghai for 2-3 years, I acquired the liking of this cold dish during my stint there.. it is slightly sweet and I especially love the texture of kao fu.
I have a hard time to find the English translation of this special ingredient – Kao fu (烤麸）and I was surprised that there is no such translation or if there is , the translation does not fit the description of the ingredient. It is actually a special wheat gluten proofed using yeast . For purposes of this post, I shall use kao fu instead of English translation.
Since i came back to Singapore about 15 years ago, I have been looking around for this ingredient. You can easily get kao fu in all China supermarkets in the dried form or wet markets in the fresh form. I talked to most shopkeeper or store owners in Singapore, most do not know what I am talking about.. I remembered in between these 10 years, I have ever asking my friends to buy it from China and hand carry to Singapore when they visited me..
Kao fu is basically wheat gluten or 面筋 which is full of wheat protein very suitable for body building. Wheat flour (面粉）is actually made of wheat gluten and wheat starches (澄粉）and you can easily extract gluten from plain flour or bread flour or even low protein flour such as cake flour. I do have a recipe and getting wheat gluten and if you are interested, you can refer to this post: Wheat Gluten (Mian Jin, 面筋， Seitan， Mi Chiya) by clicking the picture above.
Though I know how to make wheat gluten but I do not know how to proof the gluten using yeast such that the kao fu have airy spongy structure. Gluten is just like a plastic ball which is very sticky and elastic and it is practically very difficult to introduce yeast to a “plastic balls”.
However, there are 2-3 recipes shared by Chinese overseas who are deprived of getting kaofu using wheat gluten flour to prepare the kao fu. I never knew there exist such an ingredient called wheat gluten flour.. After I read the recipe, I tried my very best to shop for this flour and in vain. May be I do not know or have any clue where it is being sold until 2 weeks ago, I saw this wheat gluten flour being sold in Phoon Huat bakery in the chiller section. I was shocked to find this ingredient that i have been looking for, the price is rather reasonable, if I did not remember wrongly, 350 grams for SGD 4-5.
I immediately grabbed a container and proceed to prepare this. It was a very successful attempt. I managed to prepare a big piece of kao fu in Singapore and my craving satisfied. Overall, 90% of the gluten was nice proofed with aerated structure. It is spongy and texture is excellent.
The recipe is a very classic Shanghainese Kao Fu recipe in Shanghainese household or restaurants. It can either be vegetarian or non vegetarian. Be it vegetarian or non vegetarian, there should be no meat, it is only the seasonings and herbs that are different. I have therefore decided to share the standard 4 ingredients traditional recipes that besides kao fu, uses bamboo shoot, lilies, peanuts and black fungus. In fact, there are many alternatives, some have added white fungus and mushrooms. It is usually served chilled before the main meal.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Preparation of Kao Fu
- 350 grams of gluten flour
- About 900 grams or ml of cold water
- 6 grams of instant yeast
- 300 grams of soaked or fresh kao fu, cut into cubes or hand torn into thin pieces
- 1 small bowl of black fungus, soaked
- 1 small bowl of peanuts, soaked for at least 4 hours and best overnight
- 1 small bowl of bamboo shoots, cut into small pieces
- 1 small bowl of dried day lilies, soaked and knotted
- 2-3 pieces of ginger (optional)
- 3 tablespoons of dark soya sauce
- 2 tablespoons of black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
- Salt to taste
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- In a big mixing bowl, put the gluten flour and instant yeast. Use a tablespoon to stir until well mixed. You have to stir thoroughly as once water is added, the yeast will be stuck and the distribution will not be even.
- Add water gradually and stir until it forms an ELASTIC dough. Water quantity is for your estimation, you may or may not used up all the water. However, once the gluten has absorbed fully, any excess water will be secreted.
- Cover the dough with a piece of wet cloth and let it proof until 2-3 times the size which took about 1-1.5 hours.
- Grease a steaming tin or tray heavily. Transfer the proofed dough to the tin and steam at high heat for 25-30 minutes. The Kao fu will be fluffy in the steamer but once cooled, it will deflate a bit. Best to let it cool in the steamer before taking out from the steamer to minimize deflation. Cool completely before cutting in size.
- If you managed to get the dried kao fu in the supermarket. You have to soak in water until it become sponges like. It will take 1-2 hours.
- If you have excess kao fu, you can freeze it and keep for months. This recipe will yields about 1 kg of kao fu.
- Get ready a pot of hot boiling water, put some salt and blanch the kao fu for about 2-3 minutes. This step is especially important if you are using soaked dried kao fu purchased from the stores. The main purpose is to get rid of any impurities or some raw smell of the kao fu. For homemade, personally, i think this is not necessary but I did blanched as well.
- Put the blanched kao fu in some cold water, drain and use hand to lightly squeeze out all the water. Set aside.
- Use the same hot water to blanch the bamboo shoots to rid of impurities and sour smell.
- In a wok, put 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil, pan fry the kao fu under medium heat until all sides are golden brown. This will took about 10 minutes at least. The main purpose is to preserve the shape and to give it a better aroma.
- Push the pan fried kao fu to one side, put a small quantity of cooking oil, sauté the ginger slices until fragrant.
- Add the bamboo shoot, peanuts and black fungus. Stir fry for one minute and add soya sauce. Stir fry again for 2-3 minutes until the ingredients are well mixed. Add 1 to 1.5 cups of water and bring to boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer until the ingredients are soft. It will take about 20-25 minutes. If the water dries up too fast, you can add more water.
- Add the dried day lilies, black vinegar and sugar. Stir until well mix and let it simmer for another 5 more minutes before adding sesame oil and off the heat.
- Let the dish cool completely before serving as appetizer. The flavour further developed if it is chill in the fridge.
If you are wondering where to get the wheat gluten, you can get it in Singapore Phoon Huat bakery. If you can get dried kao fu, soaked it and follow the recipe. If you can’t get hold of wheat gluten flour or kao fu, you can substitute this with the tofu puff though the taste and texture is not exactly the same but still delicious. Do give this favourite dish of mine a try and I believe you will like it also.
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