A Guide To Furu (Fermented Bean Curd)

Amanda M. Rye

The 1st time I experimented with furu in earnest, I was doing work as a volunteer at a hostel in a remote village in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui. The proprietor pulled out a jar of property-healed fermented bean curd all through team breakfast and dared me to consider some. He plopped a gentle, thimble-sized cube of tofu on my plate and instructed me to smear it on top rated of a plain steamed bun. “Just consider a minor little bit,” he said. “It’s definitely strong.” 

Pungent, creamy and salty, like a really comfortable brie, the furu was a unexpected punch of flavor that took me by surprise, almost like biting into a spoonful of miso straight from the jar. But quickly, the sweet and virtually milky notes began to kick in and I identified myself taking a tiny little bit additional. Very quickly, I was having furu for breakfast each individual working day and it continues to be my go-to early morning staple in Taiwan where by 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 usually means product. “Furu is like product cheese,” states Pao-Yu Liu, a London-based, Taiwan-born fermenter who operates workshops on how to make furu. “Cream cheese is fermented dairy. Furu is fermented tofu.” 

The procedure starts by inoculating smaller bite-sized cubes of tofu with mold, which triggers an enzymatic approach that breaks down the tofu right until it is smooth, seasoned, and creamy. “The enzymes in the mould assist break down the tofu into all these diverse flavors and adjust the texture a ton. Tofu has a bouncy, juicy texture and then just after fermentation it turns into super creamy,”  claims Mara Jane King, co-founder of Ozuké, a fermented food items business enterprise that distributes during the United States, and author of a forthcoming reserve on Chinese fermentation. 

Significant Eats / Amanda Suarez

A shelf stable pantry merchandise found throughout East and Southeast Asia, furu can be created in a amount of different methods. In China, wild mold spores in the air latch onto the smaller, agency cubes of tofu as it sits out. They are then still left in a heat and darkish place—at all around 85°F (30°C)—for a handful of times, at which position white fuzzy hairs commence 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 next fermentation requires spot. “The enzymes will split down the protein into amino acids, starch into sugar, and extra fat into fatty acids,” says Liu.

This simple procedure is more or less the exact same throughout locations, even though there are some variations. In Japan, exactly where furu is identified as tofuyo, koji, the exact mold used to make soy sauce, is used in its place of the airborne mould relied on in much of China. And in Taiwan, the first fermentation is usually bypassed altogether and rather salted and sunshine-dried cubes of tofu are submerged in rice wine with crimson yeast or rice koji, which breaks down all the things in one go. 

In terms of the seasoning additional to the brine, there are innumerable variants out there. I’m partial to chile powder–flavored furu, which is pretty typical in Southwestern China and has a spicy kick. Taiwanese furu tends to lean a bit sweeter, and the brine is typically flavored with chunks of pineapple or other fruits for a refined hit of acidity. In Japan and pieces of southeastern China, furu is spiced with a generous quantity of purple yeast rice (the identical kind typically made use of in Taiwan’s edition), which presents it a one of a kind tanginess and a vivid vibrant crimson hue. 

How To Acquire Fermented Tofu

Except if you are an professional fermenter like Liu and King, earning furu at house is not the most realistic point to do, considering that sourcing koji can be hard and functioning with wild spores must be carried out with warning and less than the watchful assistance of authorities. Luckily, furu is accessible at pretty much all Chinese and Taiwanese grocery suppliers about the earth, frequently offered in very small jars in the pickle segment. It is also conveniently discovered on the internet below the label “fermented bean curd ” or “Chinese cheese.”

Really serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Furu will come in all sorts of flavors so read the labels thoroughly. If it is seasoned with chile powder, it will be on the spicy aspect. If it is shiny racecar pink, it’s been fermented with red yeast rice and will be sweeter. They all have the exact same foundation flavor, though, and can be made use of interchangeably in recipes. 

An critical disclaimer: Furu is not the very same point as pungent tofu. Pungent tofu is manufactured by submerging refreshing tofu in an aged brine for a few of days the tofu itself is not essentially fermented. Furu, on the other hand, is actually fermented tofu and does not have the exact same odor as smelly tofu. 

How To Retailer It

Furu is offered in jars and is a shelf-steady merchandise normally uncovered in a market’s unrefrigerated area, but as with several shelf-stable packaged goods, it’s susceptible to cross contamination once it is opened for the to start with time. For that cause, even however furu does not spoil quickly and can technically be good for yrs, the greatest detail to do is to refrigerate it following opening and eat it in just three months.  

How To Use It 

As opposed to cream cheese, which can be slathered generously on bagels and bread, furu is pretty salty, with an depth more akin to anchovies or fish sauce, and has to be used sparingly. Its flavor is delightful, but particularly strong and so ought to be employed with stability and moderation.

The most uncomplicated way to use furu is to smear a very small bit of it on plain, steamed bread, or incorporate it to rice congee for flavor. In Southern China, a smaller hit of furu is usually used in a speedy vegetable stir-fry—usually blended with rice wine and garlic to include flavor to crunchy sprigs of h2o spinach. 

Significant Eats / Lorena Masso

The options, while, are infinite. When I was in China filming a video clip about Shanghainese cuisine, one of my resources added it to a marinade for drunken shrimp, and it was an epiphany. He took raw, fresh new shrimp and dunked it in a concoction of aged Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar, and red yeast–flavored furu. Sweet, salty, and extremely umami, the dish was like a Chinese-design ceviche and to this day—many several years later— I still assume about it and salivate. 

According to King, it truly is a functional taste enhancer in marinades and braises. Which is anything I’ve viewed In Taiwan, where by furu is frequently applied as a marinade for chunk-sized chunks of fried rooster that is then tossed in a delicious concoction of white pepper and five-spice powder. This mix is rather common at a whole lot of the late evening beer dining establishments and pairs marvelously with an ice-cold lager.

It also can make for a superb dressing. “I​​ enjoy producing salad with it,” says Liu. “I increase a little bit of vinegar, garlic, chile, and sesame oil.” 

Even while furu can be obtained rather easily all-around the world, what’s available for obtain in the Western environment only skims the surface. Most furu in East Asia is selfmade and utilizes the all-natural microorganisms in the air to inoculate the tofu. Like with artisanal cheese, each furu tastes a little bit different based on the terroir and who’s producing it. Some versions have a deep, funky taste, some others are quite gentle and a bit acidic. “Everyone would make it in a different way,” states Liu. 

There are endless possibilities in the realm of furu and if you get your fingers on a jar, get started with the advice my hostel host in China gave me: Just consider a little bit and smear it on steamed bread. For furu, a very little goes a prolonged way.

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