Lu ro fan or lo ba fan to you Taiwanese speakers is a simple comfort dish that can be found in many canteen-style food courts around China and Taiwan. It’s stewed ground pork usually served with a side of preserved vegetables on rice, or for those who are slightly health-conscious, fresh vegetables like bok choy. It had been a while since I ate this since I never make it at home and I never order it when I’m at a restaurant that has it, but I was craving it and wanted to try making a vegetarian version.
It turned out pretty easy to just substitute the pork for wheat gluten. I bought fresh wheat gluten, like the type you use to make the Shanghainese dish kou fu, chopped it up finely, and mixed it up with the rest of the ingredients: chopped shallots, garlic, shiitake mushroom, and pickled radish. I added the pickled radish to give it more flavor since wheat gluten isn’t as flavorful as real pork.
It’s seasoned with a mixture of soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, sugar, mushroom soaking liquid, and about 2 cups of water. I let that stew for about 30 minutes with a few hard boiled eggs while I boiled some bok choy.
The entire thing was easy to make and assemble. Including the rice cooking time, it took less than 45 minutes to make enough for dinner and lunch the next day. Next time I make this, I’ll probably throw in some chopped wood ear mushroom to give it more texture and a little agar to add thickness to the sauce.