A Guide To Furu (Fermented Bean Curd)

The to start with time I attempted furu in earnest, I was doing work as a volunteer at a hostel in a distant village in the jap Chinese province of Anhui. The proprietor pulled out a jar of dwelling-fixed fermented bean curd for the duration of staff members breakfast and dared me to try out some. He plopped a smooth, thimble-sized cube of tofu on my plate and instructed me to smear it on major of a plain steamed bun. “Just consider a very little bit,” he stated. “It’s seriously powerful.” 

Pungent, creamy and salty, like a extremely soft brie, the furu was a sudden punch of taste that took me by surprise, just about like biting into a spoonful of miso straight from the jar. But quickly, the sweet and practically milky notes began to kick in and I discovered myself getting a minor little bit far more. Very quickly, I was ingesting furu for breakfast each and every working day and it proceeds to be my go-to early morning staple in Taiwan exactly 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 combination of two characters:fu 腐, which is shorthand for tofu, and ru 乳, which suggests cream. “Furu is like product cheese,” states 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 approach starts off by inoculating modest chunk-sized cubes of tofu with mould, which triggers an enzymatic process that breaks down the tofu right up until it is tender, seasoned, and creamy. “The enzymes in the mildew enable crack down the tofu into all these diverse flavors and adjust the texture a great deal. Tofu has a bouncy, juicy texture and then just after fermentation it gets to be tremendous creamy,”  suggests Mara Jane King, co-founder of Ozuké, a fermented meals organization that distributes all through the United States, and author of a forthcoming book on Chinese fermentation. 

Severe Eats / Amanda Suarez

A shelf secure pantry product discovered through East and Southeast Asia, furu can be created in a amount of various means. In China, wild mould spores in the air latch on to the tiny, business cubes of tofu as it sits out. They are then left in a warm and dark place—at all around 85°F (30°C)—for a number of days, at which point 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 can take location. “The enzymes will split down the protein into amino acids, starch into sugar, and body fat into fatty acids,” suggests Liu.

This primary method is extra or significantly less the identical across regions, although there are some variants. In Japan, where furu is identified as tofuyo, koji, the very same mold utilised to make soy sauce, is employed as an alternative of the airborne mildew relied on in a lot of China. And in Taiwan, the to start with fermentation is usually bypassed completely and as an alternative salted and sunlight-dried cubes of tofu are submerged in rice wine with pink yeast or rice koji, which breaks down everything in one go. 

In terms of the seasoning extra to the brine, there are many variants out there. I’m partial to chile powder–flavored furu, which is fairly popular in Southwestern China and has a spicy kick. Taiwanese furu tends to lean a bit sweeter, and the brine is frequently flavored with chunks of pineapple or other fruits for a delicate hit of acidity. In Japan and parts of southeastern China, furu is spiced with a generous amount of money of red yeast rice (the identical form often employed in Taiwan’s variation), which provides it a unique tanginess and a vivid vivid purple hue. 

How To Invest in Fermented Tofu

Except if you are an skilled fermenter like Liu and King, making furu at house isn’t the most realistic thing to do, considering the fact that sourcing koji can be tough and performing with wild spores really should be accomplished with warning and less than the careful steerage of industry experts. Luckily, furu is accessible at virtually all Chinese and Taiwanese grocery shops about the planet, normally sold in small jars in the pickle section. It’s also quickly uncovered on-line under the label “fermented bean curd ” or “Chinese cheese.”

Major Eats / Amanda Suarez

Furu arrives in all kinds of flavors so browse the labels cautiously. If it is seasoned with chile powder, it will be on the spicy aspect. If it is vibrant racecar purple, it’s been fermented with purple yeast rice and will be sweeter. They all have the exact same foundation taste, nevertheless, and can be employed interchangeably in recipes. 

An vital disclaimer: Furu is not the identical factor as smelly tofu. Pungent tofu is designed by submerging fresh tofu in an aged brine for a few of days the tofu by itself is not truly fermented. Furu, on the other hand, is in fact fermented tofu and does not have the exact same odor as smelly tofu. 

How To Retailer It

Furu is marketed in jars and is a shelf-secure item typically discovered in a market’s unrefrigerated segment, but as with numerous shelf-stable packaged products and solutions, it is vulnerable to cross contamination once it’s opened for the initially time. For that reason, even nevertheless furu does not spoil very easily and can technically be excellent for many years, the best matter to do is to refrigerate it following opening and consume it inside three months.  

How To Use It 

Contrary to product cheese, which can be slathered generously on bagels and bread, furu is quite salty, with an depth extra akin to anchovies or fish sauce, and has to be made use of sparingly. Its taste is delicious, but extremely strong and so need to be employed with equilibrium and moderation.

The most easy way to use furu is to smear a tiny bit of it on plain, steamed bread, or insert it to rice congee for taste. In Southern China, a modest hit of furu is generally utilized in a fast vegetable stir-fry—usually blended with rice wine and garlic to include flavor to crunchy sprigs of h2o spinach. 

Really serious Eats / Lorena Masso

The prospects, however, are infinite. When I was in China filming a movie about Shanghainese delicacies, a single 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 amazingly umami, the dish was like a Chinese-type ceviche and to this day—many years later— I continue to imagine about it and salivate. 

According to King, it can be a functional taste enhancer in marinades and braises. That’s a thing I’ve noticed In Taiwan, wherever furu is normally used as a marinade for bite-sized chunks of fried chicken that is then tossed in a tasty concoction of white pepper and 5-spice powder. This combination is rather well-known at a large amount of the late night beer places to eat and pairs marvelously with an ice-chilly lager.

It also will make for a wonderful dressing. “I​​ love producing salad with it,” claims Liu. “I include a little bit of vinegar, garlic, chile, and sesame oil.” 

Even though furu can be obtained pretty conveniently all over the earth, what’s accessible for invest in in the Western globe only skims the area. Most furu in East Asia is home made and utilizes the natural microorganisms in the air to inoculate the tofu. Like with artisanal cheese, every furu tastes a little bit distinct relying on the terroir and who’s generating it. Some versions have a deep, funky flavor, many others are fairly mild and a little acidic. “Everyone would make it in another way,” says Liu. 

There are unlimited options in the realm of furu and if you get your hands on a jar, get started with the advice my hostel host in China gave me: Just take a little bit and smear it on steamed bread. For furu, a minor goes a prolonged way.

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