This steamed split bun is usually made of pork belly or duck.  It usually takes a long time to braise pork belly before its tender and nice.  It’s delicious but it’s also greasy and heavy.  So I thought what if I create a vegan version of it that’s healthier, easier, and faster to make?  The first challenge I had is to figure out how to make the best fried tofu that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Many online recipes recommended using firm tofu for frying, but I found that the texture is quite tough.  So I tested it with soft tofu as well and I found that the secret to fry tofu is to pour salted hot water over it and use tons of paper towels to dry the tofu before frying it.  This is a great article about different tofu varieties and this is where I learned how to make the best fry tofu.


The next challenge is the sweet brown sauce, and the secret here is to add 1 teaspoon of five spice powder in it to get that extra kick and use vegan mushroom oyster to season it.  Of course there are a lot other ingredients (see complete recipe below) in it but it’s still very easy to make.

I know I wanted to add some acidity on top of the Umami sweet brown sauce, so I used pickled radish (inspired by Vietnamese Banh Mi) that I bought from a Korean grocery store in Chicago and the end result was spectacular!!!

Ok Enough talking and let’s get cooking!


Vegan Steamed Bun (Gwa Bao)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cuisine: Taiwanese
Serves: 12 buns
  • 2 Shallots (chopped)
  • 2 gloves garlic (minced)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce (if you can't find vegan oyster sauce, add another ¼ cup soy sauce)
  • ¼ cup rice wine
  • 2 cup water
  • 2-3 teaspoon five spice powder
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • vegan oyster sauce to taste
  • 2 packs soft tofu
  • Pickled Radish
  • Roasted peanuts (crushed)
  • 1 bag of steamed bun
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a sauce pan over medium heat, stir in shallots and garlic, cook until shallots soften
  2. Add soy sauce, rice wine, water, five spice powder, and brown sugar. Mix thoroughly and bring it to boil.
  3. Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes or until it's reduced by half.
  4. Season it with vegan oyster sauce about 2-3 tablespoons
  5. Remove it from pan and pour it into a food processor and blend it until smooth.
  6. Cut tofu into ½ inch slices. Pour salted hot water over tofu slices. Dry tofu slices with paper towel or cloth towel and let them sit and air dry for 10 minute. Deep fry the slices in hot vegetable oil until golden yellow about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove tofu slices from pan and dip them in sweet brown sauce.
  8. Place buns in steamer for 1-2 minutes. Place tofu, radish, roasted peanuts inside the bun and serve!

Resource List:  (click on the images below to find the ingredients you need)

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