September 26, 2023


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A Guide To Furu (Fermented Bean Curd)

A Guide To Furu (Fermented Bean Curd)

The to start with time I tried using furu in earnest, I was functioning as a volunteer at a hostel in a distant village in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui. The proprietor pulled out a jar of property-cured fermented bean curd through employees breakfast and dared me to attempt some. He plopped a soft, thimble-sized dice of tofu on my plate and instructed me to smear it on major of a simple steamed bun. “Just consider a small bit,” he said. “It’s actually sturdy.” 

Pungent, creamy and salty, like a extremely tender brie, the furu was a sudden punch of flavor that took me by surprise, practically like biting into a spoonful of miso straight from the jar. But shortly, the sweet and just about milky notes started to kick in and I found myself getting a minor bit a lot more. Really quickly, I was having furu for breakfast each working day and it continues to be my go-to morning staple in Taiwan in which I now live—something that I liberally smear on steamed bread like butter on toast. 

What Is Furu?

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

The process begins by inoculating small chunk-sized cubes of tofu with mould, which triggers an enzymatic process that breaks down the tofu until eventually it is gentle, seasoned, and creamy. “The enzymes in the mould support break down the tofu into all these different flavors and change the texture a whole lot. Tofu has a bouncy, juicy texture and then soon after fermentation it becomes tremendous creamy,”  states Mara Jane King, co-founder of Ozuké, a fermented food items enterprise that distributes throughout the United States, and writer of a forthcoming guide on Chinese fermentation. 

Really serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

A shelf secure pantry item uncovered through East and Southeast Asia, furu can be produced in a quantity of distinct means. In China, wild mildew spores in the air latch onto the tiny, company cubes of tofu as it sits out. They are then still left in a heat and dark place—at all-around 85°F (30°C)—for a couple times, at which issue white fuzzy hairs start off 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 second fermentation will take spot. “The enzymes will split down the protein into amino acids, starch into sugar, and extra fat into fatty acids,” says Liu.

This simple system is additional or less the exact same throughout areas, even though there are some versions. In Japan, where by furu is termed tofuyo, koji, the same mould applied to make soy sauce, is applied rather of the airborne mould relied on in much of China. And in Taiwan, the to start with fermentation is normally bypassed completely and as a substitute salted and sunshine-dried cubes of tofu are submerged in rice wine with pink yeast or rice koji, which breaks down anything in one particular go. 

In phrases of the seasoning included to the brine, there are innumerable variants out there. I’m partial to chile powder–flavored furu, which is very popular in Southwestern China and has a spicy kick. Taiwanese furu tends to lean a bit sweeter, and the brine is generally flavored with chunks of pineapple or other fruits for a delicate strike of acidity. In Japan and components of southeastern China, furu is spiced with a generous amount of money of pink yeast rice (the very same variety generally employed in Taiwan’s variation), which provides it a distinctive tanginess and a vivid shiny crimson hue. 

How To Obtain Fermented Tofu

Except you are an experienced fermenter like Liu and King, creating furu at dwelling isn’t the most functional detail to do, due to the fact sourcing koji can be difficult and doing work with wild spores must be performed with caution and beneath the watchful steering of authorities. Thankfully, furu is obtainable at pretty much all Chinese and Taiwanese grocery merchants all around the planet, typically marketed in little jars in the pickle section. It’s also easily located on line under the label “fermented bean curd ” or “Chinese cheese.”

Major Eats / Amanda Suarez

Furu arrives in all types of flavors so read the labels diligently. If it’s seasoned with chile powder, it will be on the spicy facet. If it’s dazzling racecar crimson, it’s been fermented with purple yeast rice and will be sweeter. They all have the identical base flavor, while, and can be applied interchangeably in recipes. 

An important disclaimer: Furu is not the same detail as pungent tofu. Smelly tofu is manufactured by submerging fresh tofu in an aged brine for a pair of times the tofu alone is not truly fermented. Furu, on the other hand, is truly fermented tofu and does not have the identical odor as smelly tofu. 

How To Keep It

Furu is sold in jars and is a shelf-secure merchandise usually identified in a market’s unrefrigerated segment, but as with a lot of shelf-stable packaged solutions, it’s susceptible to cross contamination at the time it’s opened for the first time. For that reason, even even though furu does not spoil easily and can technically be great for a long time, the greatest point to do is to refrigerate it just after opening and try to eat it in just 3 months.  

How To Use It 

Compared with product cheese, which can be slathered generously on bagels and bread, furu is rather salty, with an intensity more akin to anchovies or fish sauce, and has to be applied sparingly. Its taste is mouth watering, but really powerful and so have to be applied with harmony and moderation.

The most straightforward way to use furu is to smear a small little bit of it on basic, steamed bread, or add it to rice congee for flavor. In Southern China, a small hit of furu is usually utilized in a rapid vegetable stir-fry—usually combined with rice wine and garlic to include taste to crunchy sprigs of drinking water spinach. 

Critical Eats / Lorena Masso

The prospects, however, are unlimited. When I was in China filming a online video about Shanghainese delicacies, one of my resources included it to a marinade for drunken shrimp, and it was an epiphany. He took raw, new shrimp and dunked it in a concoction of aged Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar, and red yeast–flavored furu. Sweet, salty, and incredibly umami, the dish was like a Chinese-model ceviche and to this day—many many years later— I even now assume about it and salivate. 

According to King, it really is a functional taste enhancer in marinades and braises. That’s something I have witnessed In Taiwan, where by furu is normally used as a marinade for chunk-sized chunks of fried hen that’s then tossed in a delicious concoction of white pepper and 5-spice powder. This combination is really popular at a great deal of the late night time beer places to eat and pairs marvelously with an ice-chilly lager.

It also can make for a amazing dressing. “I​​ adore generating salad with it,” claims Liu. “I include a bit of vinegar, garlic, chile, and sesame oil.” 

Even however furu can be acquired fairly quickly close to the environment, what’s out there for buy in the Western earth only skims the surface. Most furu in East Asia is home made and makes use of the pure microorganisms in the air to inoculate the tofu. Like with artisanal cheese, each individual furu tastes a bit various dependent on the terroir and who’s producing it. Some variations have a deep, funky taste, others are quite moderate and a bit acidic. “Everyone helps make it differently,” says Liu. 

There are unlimited options in the realm of furu and if you get your palms on a jar, begin with the advice my hostel host in China gave me: Just get a little bit and smear it on steamed bread. For furu, a small goes a very long way.