This vegan Char Siu (BBQ Tofu) Rice or 素叉烧饭 (Sù Chā shāo fàn) is a must-try dish! It has a drool-worthy BBQ Tofu made with homemade sauce and paired with a fragrant ginger garlic rice.
Char Siu (a Cantonese word, also spelled as Char Siew) or 叉烧 (Chā shāo) in Mandarin translates to Fork Roast. Char Siu is a type of BBQ pork where the meat is marinated in a special sauce and then roasted to create that charred exterior. You can read more about the process online but today I’m sharing a simple vegan recipe that uses tofu and a homemade sauce.
This particular Char Siu Rice dish is inspired by the ones I grew up with. It’s usually served with cucumber slices, a side of ginger garlic chili sauce, and a big bowl of flavored rice.
Today, you can make this dish easily at home and I’ve broken it down into 2 parts for you; Part 1 – Fragrant Flavored Rice and Part 2 – Char Siu. This rice is best paired with a side of cucumber and fresh Ginger Garlic chili sauce.
Why you Need this Vegan Char Siu (BBQ Tofu) Rice
Char Siu Texture: The Char Siu in this recipe is made from firm tofu that I simply coated with cornstarch and then pan-fried until golden brown. This step creates a beautiful crispy outer layer and has a nice sheen when it’s coated with sauce.
Char Siu Sauce: This homemade sauce has a great balance of sweet and savory flavors with a touch of smokiness from the hoisin sauce.
Fragrant Rice: The rice is flavorful and can be served by itself. I sometimes make this rice instead of white plain rice for lunch or dinner.
How to make Vegan Char Siu (BBQ Tofu) Rice
I’ve broken the steps down into two parts so you can make the rice and Char Siu separately if preferred. The rice is cooked using a rice cooker so please use the same amount of water that you normally use to cook the rice.
Part 1: Fragrant Flavored Rice
Wash 3 cups of Jasmine rice three times with cold water. Drain the rice in a mesh sieve. Heat a large non-stick pan and add in a drizzle of oil. Sauté ginger and garlic until fragrant.
Then, add in the cleaned rice, salt, and vegan butter. Stir-fry for about a minute or two until aromatic over low medium heat. The grain should be dry by now.
Transfer the rice to the inner rice pot and add in the water. I also added a knotted pandan leaves to increase the rice’s aroma. Skip this ingredient if you can’t find it. Cook the rice using the ‘white rice’ settings.
When ready, remove the pandan leaves and fluff the rice with fork.
Part 2: Vegan Char Siu (BBQ Tofu)
First, combine all the sauces in a bowl and set aside.
If you are using boxed tofu, remove tofu from its package and drain out as much water as you can. You don’t want to make it too dry as you need some moisture to bind the cornstarch later.
Spread a layer of cornstarch on a plate. Cut tofu into 3 slabs, lengthwise. Rub all sides with cornstarch.
Heat up a non-stick pan and add in a drizzle oil. Pan-fry each tofu side until golden brown over low-medium heat. Tip: Do not flip until a crust is formed.
Once all the tofu sides are golden brown, turn the heat to low. Add in the sauce and slowly coat the sides with the sauce. The sauce will continue to thicken and stick to the tofu’s crust. Tip: Turn the tofu using a pair of tongs.
Once all the sauce has been absorbed, remove tofu from the pan and place it on a plate or chopping board. Let it cool down completely before slicing it.
Now, using the same pan with the remaining oil, make a simple sweet sauce for the Char Siu. This is an optional step.
How to serve: Serve the warm rice with the vegan Char Siu along with a side of cucumber and ginger garlic chili sauce. Also, add a spoonful of sweet soy sauce mix for an extra flavor.
This Vegan Char Siu (BBQ Tofu) Rice is
- Vegan and Tasty
- Simple and Easy to make
- Easily customizable with allium-free options
- Gluten-free (use gluten-free sauces)
- served with a homemade Ginger garlic chili sauce
- a Must-Try recipe
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Char Siu (BBQ Tofu) Rice – 素叉烧饭
- Rice cooker
- 16 oz firm tofu drained
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- oil for cooking
Ginger Rice (enough for 6 people)
- 3 cups rice
- a few slices of ginger [about 15g]
- 4 cloves garlic sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pandan leaves knotted
- water (see notes)
Char Siu Sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegan 'oyster' sauce
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- ⅛ teaspoon dark soy sauce* for color (optional)
- white pepper
- ⅓ cup water
Sweet Sauce Mix (optional)
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar or maple syrup
Prepare the Ginger Rice
- Wash and rinse Jasmine rice with cold water until the water turns clear (about three rinses). Drain out the water and set aside.
- Heat a large pan and add 3 teaspoons of cooking oil. Sauté ginger slices until aromatic and continue to do the same for garlic.
- Add the rice, salt, and butter then stir-fry all the mixture over medium low heat until fragrant. [This step is to dry up the rice as well.]
- Transfer rice to the inner rice pot. Add the pandan leaves and water.
- Cook the rice on 'white rice' settings. When ready, fluff the rice with fork before serving.
Prepare the vegan Char Siu (BBQ Tofu)
- Combine all the char siu sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- Cut tofu into 3 slabs, lengthwise. Rub all sides with cornstarch.
- Heat a non-stick pan and add in a tablespoon of oil. Using low-medium heat, pan-fry the tofu until golden brown on all sides. Tip: Do not flip the tofu until a crust is formed.
- Once the tofu is ready, add in the sauce. Coat each side with the sauce until the tofu has a nice glossy sheen. This process takes a little bit of time as you need to turn and coat each side evenly.
- Remove the tofu from the pan and let them cool down completely before slicing it into slices.
- Now, make the sweet sauce by mixing maple syrup and soy sauce with toasted sesame oil in a bowl. Or you can simply cook the sauce in the pan with the remaining oil in the pan.
How to serve
- Place the flavored ginger rice and vegan Char Siu on a plate. Add a spoonful of sweet sauce mix on top of the Char Siu then pair it with a side of sliced cucumber and ginger garlic chili sauce. Enjoy.
- How much water needed for 3 cups of rice? I used about 1¼ cup water to 1 cup of rice depending on the brand of rice. Usually, I measure my water needed using the first crease of my index finger as a guideline which is also known as the Knuckle Method.
- Check this recipe for homemade vegan ‘oyster’ sauce.
- Best served with homemade Ginger Garlic Chili sauce.
- Thick dark soy sauce such as kicap manis will work great. Some brands label it as Thick Caramel sauce.