A Guide To Furu (Fermented Bean Curd)

The 1st time I attempted furu in earnest, I was working as a volunteer at a hostel in a distant village in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui. The proprietor pulled out a jar of home-treated fermented bean curd through team breakfast and dared me to check out some. He plopped a soft, thimble-sized dice of tofu on my plate and instructed me to smear it on best of a simple steamed bun. “Just take a little bit,” he reported. “It’s truly potent.” 

Pungent, creamy and salty, like a very comfortable brie, the furu was a unexpected punch of taste that took me by surprise, just about like biting into a spoonful of miso straight from the jar. But before long, the sweet and pretty much milky notes started to kick in and I located myself getting a very little little bit extra. Quite soon, I was consuming furu for breakfast each working day and it proceeds to be my go-to early 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 product. “Furu is like product cheese,” claims Pao-Yu Liu, a London-centered, Taiwan-born fermenter who operates workshops on how to make furu. “Cream cheese is fermented dairy. Furu is fermented tofu.” 

The approach commences by inoculating smaller bite-sized cubes of tofu with mold, which triggers an enzymatic process that breaks down the tofu until it is tender, seasoned, and creamy. “The enzymes in the mold aid crack down the tofu into all these distinctive flavors and modify the texture a great deal. Tofu has a bouncy, juicy texture and then soon after fermentation it will become tremendous creamy,”  states Mara Jane King, co-founder of Ozuké, a fermented foods company that distributes throughout the United States, and author of a forthcoming guide on Chinese fermentation. 

Really serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

A shelf steady pantry merchandise found all over East and Southeast Asia, furu can be created in a variety of different ways. In China, wild mildew spores in the air latch on to 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 of days, at which issue white fuzzy hairs start out 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 usually takes position. “The enzymes will break down the protein into amino acids, starch into sugar, and fat into fatty acids,” states Liu.

This basic approach is much more or less the exact across locations, while there are some variants. In Japan, where by furu is known as tofuyo, koji, the exact mildew used to make soy sauce, is applied rather of the airborne mould relied on in a lot of China. And in Taiwan, the initially fermentation is often bypassed entirely and alternatively salted and sun-dried cubes of tofu are submerged in rice wine with red yeast or rice koji, which breaks down every thing in one particular go. 

In conditions of the seasoning included to the brine, there are innumerable variants out there. I’m partial to chile powder–flavored furu, which is quite frequent in Southwestern China and has a spicy kick. Taiwanese furu tends to lean a little bit sweeter, and the brine is often flavored with chunks of pineapple or other fruits for a delicate hit of acidity. In Japan and pieces of southeastern China, furu is spiced with a generous amount of money of red yeast rice (the same kind frequently applied in Taiwan’s version), which offers it a exceptional tanginess and a vivid bright crimson hue. 

How To Get Fermented Tofu

Except if you are an professional fermenter like Liu and King, creating furu at house isn’t the most realistic matter to do, because sourcing koji can be tricky and performing with wild spores should really be accomplished with warning and underneath the mindful guidance of authorities. Fortunately, furu is available at virtually all Chinese and Taiwanese grocery merchants all-around the entire world, generally offered in very small jars in the pickle area. It is also effortlessly located on line less than the label “fermented bean curd ” or “Chinese cheese.”

Significant Eats / Amanda Suarez

Furu comes in all kinds of flavors so browse the labels cautiously. If it’s seasoned with chile powder, it will be on the spicy aspect. If it’s brilliant racecar purple, it’s been fermented with pink yeast rice and will be sweeter. They all have the similar base taste, though, and can be utilised interchangeably in recipes. 

An significant disclaimer: Furu is not the identical factor as smelly tofu. Stinky tofu is made by submerging new tofu in an aged brine for a few of days the tofu itself is not truly fermented. Furu, on the other hand, is actually fermented tofu and does not have the similar odor as smelly tofu. 

How To Shop It

Furu is marketed in jars and is a shelf-stable product commonly uncovered in a market’s unrefrigerated part, but as with lots of shelf-stable packaged merchandise, it is vulnerable to cross contamination when it is opened for the to start with time. For that rationale, even nevertheless furu does not spoil simply and can technically be great for many years, the most effective matter to do is to refrigerate it following opening and try to eat it inside of a few months.  

How To Use It 

In contrast to product cheese, which can be slathered generously on bagels and bread, furu is quite salty, with an intensity more akin to anchovies or fish sauce, and has to be utilized sparingly. Its flavor is scrumptious, but very strong and so will have to be employed with balance and moderation.

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

Really serious Eats / Lorena Masso

The options, though, are unlimited. When I was in China filming a online video about Shanghainese delicacies, a single of my resources additional it to a marinade for drunken shrimp, and it was an epiphany. He took uncooked, fresh shrimp and dunked it in a concoction of aged Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar, and purple yeast–flavored furu. Sweet, salty, and incredibly umami, the dish was like a Chinese-design ceviche and to this day—many many years later— I even now think about it and salivate. 

In accordance to King, it is a flexible taste enhancer in marinades and braises. Which is a little something I’ve observed In Taiwan, in which furu is normally applied as a marinade for bite-sized chunks of fried hen that is then tossed in a tasty concoction of white pepper and 5-spice powder. This mixture is quite well-known at a large amount of the late night beer restaurants and pairs marvelously with an ice-cold lager.

It also can make for a fantastic dressing. “I​​ adore producing salad with it,” suggests Liu. “I insert a bit of vinegar, garlic, chile, and sesame oil.” 

Even although furu can be received really easily close to the environment, what is out there for buy in the Western planet only skims the floor. Most furu in East Asia is homemade and makes use of the purely natural microorganisms in the air to inoculate the tofu. Like with artisanal cheese, each and every furu preferences a little bit various relying on the terroir and who’s earning it. Some variations have a deep, funky taste, some others are really moderate and a little bit acidic. “Everyone makes it in another way,” suggests Liu. 

There are countless choices in the realm of furu and if you get your hands on a jar, start with the tips my hostel host in China gave me: Just acquire a bit and smear it on steamed bread. For furu, a minimal goes a very long way.

Rebecca R. Ammons

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