September 26, 2023


Cooking Is My World

A Guide To Furu (Fermented Bean Curd)

A Guide To Furu (Fermented Bean Curd)

The to start with time I tried out furu in earnest, I was working as a volunteer at a hostel in a remote village in the japanese Chinese province of Anhui. The proprietor pulled out a jar of residence-remedied fermented bean curd during personnel breakfast and dared me to try some. He plopped a delicate, thimble-sized cube of tofu on my plate and instructed me to smear it on leading of a simple steamed bun. “Just consider a minor bit,” he explained. “It’s seriously sturdy.” 

Pungent, creamy and salty, like a really soft brie, the furu was a sudden punch of flavor that took me by surprise, virtually like biting into a spoonful of miso straight from the jar. But soon, the sweet and virtually milky notes began to kick in and I observed myself using a tiny bit additional. Really quickly, I was eating furu for breakfast each and every day and it proceeds to be my go-to morning staple in Taiwan where I now live—something that I liberally smear on steamed bread like butter on toast. 

What Is Furu?

In Mandarin Chinese, the phrase furu 腐乳 is the mix of two characters:fu 腐, which is shorthand for tofu, and ru 乳, which suggests cream. “Furu is like cream cheese,” claims Pao-Yu Liu, a London-primarily based, Taiwan-born fermenter who runs workshops on how to make furu. “Cream cheese is fermented dairy. Furu is fermented tofu.” 

The method commences by inoculating small chunk-sized cubes of tofu with mold, which triggers an enzymatic procedure that breaks down the tofu until eventually it is soft, seasoned, and creamy. “The enzymes in the mildew assistance break down the tofu into all these distinct flavors and alter the texture a whole lot. Tofu has a bouncy, juicy texture and then immediately after fermentation it will become tremendous creamy,”  says Mara Jane King, co-founder of Ozuké, a fermented meals company that distributes in the course of the United States, and author of a forthcoming ebook on Chinese fermentation. 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

A shelf secure pantry item observed in the course of East and Southeast Asia, furu can be manufactured in a selection of distinct strategies. In China, wild mold spores in the air latch onto the smaller, company cubes of tofu as it sits out. They are then left in a warm and darkish place—at around 85°F (30°C)—for a handful of days, at which point white fuzzy hairs start to envelop them. The hairs are wiped off and the tofu is submerged in a salted and seasoned brine for months, which is when the 2nd fermentation usually takes put. “The enzymes will split down the protein into amino acids, starch into sugar, and fats into fatty acids,” suggests Liu.

This primary approach is more or less the exact same across regions, while there are some variants. In Japan, wherever furu is called tofuyo, koji, the same mildew applied to make soy sauce, is utilized rather of the airborne mold relied on in significantly of China. And in Taiwan, the first fermentation is normally bypassed completely and instead salted and sunlight-dried cubes of tofu are submerged in rice wine with purple yeast or rice koji, which breaks down almost everything in a single go. 

In conditions of the seasoning included to the brine, there are a great number of variants out there. I’m partial to chile powder–flavored furu, which is very widespread in Southwestern China and has a spicy kick. Taiwanese furu tends to lean a little bit sweeter, and the brine is typically flavored with chunks of pineapple or other fruits for a refined strike of acidity. In Japan and sections of southeastern China, furu is spiced with a generous amount of money of crimson yeast rice (the very same variety normally employed in Taiwan’s variation), which offers it a unique tanginess and a vivid bright pink hue. 

How To Get Fermented Tofu

Unless of course you are an skilled fermenter like Liu and King, earning furu at household isn’t the most functional point to do, due to the fact sourcing koji can be tricky and operating with wild spores ought to be accomplished with warning and underneath the careful direction of experts. Fortunately, furu is accessible at practically all Chinese and Taiwanese grocery suppliers around the planet, usually marketed in very small jars in the pickle area. It’s also effortlessly found on line under the label “fermented bean curd ” or “Chinese cheese.”

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Furu will come in all sorts of flavors so read the labels very carefully. If it is seasoned with chile powder, it will be on the spicy aspect. If it’s brilliant racecar crimson, it’s been fermented with pink yeast rice and will be sweeter. They all have the very same foundation taste, although, and can be utilised interchangeably in recipes. 

An vital disclaimer: Furu is not the identical factor as stinky tofu. Stinky tofu is made by submerging refreshing tofu in an aged brine for a pair of times the tofu alone is not essentially fermented. Furu, on the other hand, is actually fermented tofu and does not have the similar odor as stinky tofu. 

How To Shop It

Furu is bought in jars and is a shelf-secure merchandise normally found in a market’s unrefrigerated area, but as with a lot of shelf-secure packaged products, it’s vulnerable to cross contamination the moment it’s opened for the very first time. For that cause, even while furu does not spoil effortlessly and can technically be fantastic for decades, the very best issue to do is to refrigerate it immediately after opening and consume it in just three months.  

How To Use It 

In contrast to product cheese, which can be slathered generously on bagels and bread, furu is really salty, with an intensity extra akin to anchovies or fish sauce, and has to be used sparingly. Its taste is tasty, but particularly potent and so need to be employed with stability and moderation.

The most easy way to use furu is to smear a very small bit of it on simple, steamed bread, or increase it to rice congee for taste. In Southern China, a modest hit of furu is frequently applied in a swift vegetable stir-fry—usually mixed with rice wine and garlic to include taste to crunchy sprigs of drinking water spinach. 

Major Eats / Lorena Masso

The prospects, however, are infinite. When I was in China filming a video clip about Shanghainese delicacies, just one of my resources included it to a marinade for drunken shrimp, and it was an epiphany. He took uncooked, fresh new shrimp and dunked it in a concoction of aged Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar, and purple yeast–flavored furu. Sweet, salty, and exceptionally umami, the dish was like a Chinese-design and style ceviche and to this day—many many years later— I even now think about it and salivate. 

According to King, it’s a flexible flavor enhancer in marinades and braises. That’s something I’ve witnessed In Taiwan, where by furu is usually utilized as a marinade for chunk-sized chunks of fried chicken which is then tossed in a tasty concoction of white pepper and five-spice powder. This combination is very well-liked at a whole lot of the late evening beer eating places and pairs marvelously with an ice-cold lager.

It also makes for a great dressing. “I​​ adore creating salad with it,” says Liu. “I increase a little bit of vinegar, garlic, chile, and sesame oil.” 

Even however furu can be attained rather conveniently all over the world, what’s offered for buy in the Western entire world only skims the floor. Most furu in East Asia is home made and makes use of the organic microorganisms in the air to inoculate the tofu. Like with artisanal cheese, every single furu preferences a little bit various depending on the terroir and who’s generating it. Some versions have a deep, funky flavor, other individuals are pretty gentle and a little bit acidic. “Everyone would make it in a different way,” suggests Liu. 

There are infinite possibilities in the realm of furu and if you get your palms on a jar, commence with the suggestions my hostel host in China gave me: Just choose a little bit and smear it on steamed bread. For furu, a minimal goes a very long way.