Sep 8, 2014

rou jia mo [chinese burger]

Day 6 Burger Extravaganza takes us to China. Indeed, China does have a version of a burger, but not in the same sense as the western burger. It is more of a street-food sandwich, but since it is referred to as "Chinese Burger" it made my list of burgers.

Rou Jia Mo is widely loved and universally accepted as just basically an amazing burger. My investigation into this masterpiece of sandwiches took me to You Tube, since there isn't much of any recipes online to research and learn from.

I found one video that was filmed in China and a street vendor is shown making the sandwich. If you are interested here is the link. Be warned, it is not vegan or even vegetarian. The sandwich is made starting at the 6 minute mark.

I used tofu as the protein because tofu will absorb the flavorful cooking broth. When the sandwich is prepared, the tofu should be chopped well with plenty of broth for it to continue to absorb. In the video the lady is shown chopping and adding pepper, cilantro and cucumber as she chops the cooked meat before adding it to the Mo bread.

I decided to make the veggies into a light salad to add on top of the tofu, which I think is prettier and because the tofu is so rich, it provides a welcome acidity.

The traditional sandwich is very rich because the broth is a bit fatty (I've cut it way down, but if you cut it even further, you will lose a lot of the appeal of the burger), but I tell you, after my first pass at a taste test, I couldn't resist testing it again - over and over again.

The broth is spiked with all kinds of wonderful Asian spices (I've read that up to 25 spices are typically used in this dish), but because I limited the spices, I added Chinese 5-spice as it brings lots of flavor to the broth in one little bottle.

With the burger filling all done, the attention turns to the bread. Pillowy, light, soft but with chew. After much, much research, I made a really great rendition of Mo. The Mo takes about an hour to rest, but there is no yeast in the dough, so it is not a difficult bread to make.

If you insist on using a store-bought bread, use an English Muffin or a pita, but it won't be as good. The bread is really an integral part of this sandwich.

Bottom line, Rou Jia Mo is definitely on our make-again list.

Rou Jia Mo - Chinese Burger
Makes 4 to 6 burgers

¼ cup unflavored coconut oil
1 (14 to 16 ounce) firm tofu, pressed 30 minutes, cut into ½-inch slices
1 medium onion, chopped
4 whole cloves
2 small red chilies (or more)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 anise pod
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, grated
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fermented black bean garlic sauce
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice seasoning
2 medium carrots, julienned
1 medium cucumber, julienned
1 medium bell pepper, julienned
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Mo bread, recipe below

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the tofu slices until golden brown and crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. Add the onion, clove, chilies, cinnamon, anise and coriander to the oil in the skillet. Stir and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the ginger and cook for another minute. Transfer to a large pot (with all the oil) and stir in the broth, black bean sauce, tamari, 1 tablespoon sugar and 5-spice. Stir well and add the tofu. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
3. Make the salad by combining the carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, vinegar, sesame seed oil, cilantro, 1 teaspoon sugar and salt and black pepper, to taste, in a large bowl. Set aside.
4. To make the burgers, transfer 2 pieces of tofu to a work surface and chop well, adding onions and simmering broth to moisten the tofu as you chop. Cut a piece of Mo in half almost all the way through and stuff it with the chopped tofu and onions. Add more sauce to moisten and top with plenty of pickled vegetables. Serve immediately.

Mo Bread
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
Neutral oil, as needed

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine.  Add the water and process until the dough comes together. Transfer to a large bowl and knead to combine into a ball. Spray the bowl with oil, return the dough to the bowl and cover with a plastic wrap. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
2. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover and set aside for another 30 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into 6 pieces, form into balls, and roll the dough pieces into a 3-inch circle.
4. Heat ½ teaspoon oil a large skillet over medium heat. Add a rolled out dough and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Do not burn.  

© 2014 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

Vegan Heritage Press is giving away a copy of "Everyday Vegan Eats" (my cookbook). Enter to win HERE. Contest ends September 14.

Have you entered to win "Vegan without Borders," the soon-to-be-released cookbook by Robin Robertson? Contest ends September 14. Enter HERE.

Pin it!


  1. These look so delicious! I've never really had Chinese food before, at least not since my childhood days of rubbish takeaways, but I've just moved to a place with a big Chinese supermarket so I might have to pay a visit and give these a go! :)

    1. Thank you! Good Chinese food is the bomb! Give this one a go - it is dee-lish.

  2. Interesting recipe, I HAVE to try this SOON!….Chinese burger, booya

  3. that looks really good! the bun looks tasty!

    1. That bread is ama-zing! Easy to make and they cook in just a few minutes. Adds that authenticity to the burger. Thanks for the visit!


Thanks for your comment! I'll check if it's spam and post if it is not. I appreciate your time and effort for commenting! ~ Zsu