November 30, 2022

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Than a Food Fitter

A Guide To Furu (Fermented Bean Curd)

6 min read

The first 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 household-cured fermented bean curd through employees breakfast and dared me to attempt some. He plopped a comfortable, thimble-sized dice of tofu on my plate and instructed me to smear it on major of a simple steamed bun. “Just acquire a minor little bit,” he said. “It’s definitely potent.” 

Pungent, creamy and salty, like a very gentle brie, the furu was a unexpected punch of flavor that took me by surprise, nearly like biting into a spoonful of miso straight from the jar. But quickly, the sweet and pretty much milky notes started to kick in and I located myself taking a small little bit more. Pretty soon, I was consuming furu for breakfast each and every working day and it continues 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 term furu 腐乳 is the blend of two characters:fu 腐, which is shorthand for tofu, and ru 乳, which implies product. “Furu is like cream cheese,” suggests 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 process commences by inoculating tiny bite-sized cubes of tofu with mildew, which triggers an enzymatic procedure that breaks down the tofu until it is comfortable, seasoned, and creamy. “The enzymes in the mould aid split down the tofu into all these different flavors and improve the texture a large amount. Tofu has a bouncy, juicy texture and then right after fermentation it gets super creamy,”  says Mara Jane King, co-founder of Ozuké, a fermented foodstuff business enterprise that distributes all through the United States, and creator of a forthcoming e book on Chinese fermentation. 

Significant Eats / Amanda Suarez


A shelf stable pantry product found all over East and Southeast Asia, furu can be created in a variety of distinctive methods. In China, wild mold spores in the air latch onto the tiny, agency cubes of tofu as it sits out. They are then left in a warm and dim place—at all around 85°F (30°C)—for a couple of days, at which stage 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 requires place. “The enzymes will break down the protein into amino acids, starch into sugar, and unwanted fat into fatty acids,” says Liu.

This standard process is more or a lot less the identical throughout regions, nevertheless there are some versions. In Japan, where furu is known as tofuyo, koji, the similar mold utilized to make soy sauce, is utilised as an alternative of the airborne mould relied on in a great deal of China. And in Taiwan, the initial fermentation is often bypassed completely and instead salted and sunshine-dried cubes of tofu are submerged in rice wine with crimson yeast or rice koji, which breaks down almost everything in a single go. 

In terms of the seasoning additional to the brine, there are countless variants out there. I’m partial to chile powder–flavored furu, which is pretty common in Southwestern China and has a spicy kick. Taiwanese furu tends to lean a little bit sweeter, and the brine is frequently flavored with chunks of pineapple or other fruits for a refined strike of acidity. In Japan and elements of southeastern China, furu is spiced with a generous amount of pink yeast rice (the same type generally applied in Taiwan’s variation), which presents it a special tanginess and a vivid vibrant crimson hue. 

How To Obtain Fermented Tofu

Except you are an seasoned fermenter like Liu and King, making furu at home isn’t the most useful detail to do, considering that sourcing koji can be hard and doing work with wild spores really should be performed with caution and less than the cautious steering of experts. Fortunately, furu is available at almost all Chinese and Taiwanese grocery stores about the earth, usually marketed in little jars in the pickle section. It is also effortlessly identified on the internet under the label “fermented bean curd ” or “Chinese cheese.”

Really serious Eats / Amanda Suarez


Furu comes in all sorts of flavors so read the labels diligently. If it is seasoned with chile powder, it will be on the spicy facet. If it’s brilliant racecar pink, it is been fermented with purple yeast rice and will be sweeter. They all have the exact same foundation flavor, though, and can be utilised interchangeably in recipes. 

An important disclaimer: Furu is not the same matter as pungent tofu. Pungent tofu is made by submerging fresh tofu in an aged brine for a couple of days the tofu alone is not actually fermented. Furu, on the other hand, is truly fermented tofu and does not have the very same odor as pungent tofu. 

How To Retailer It

Furu is sold in jars and is a shelf-secure item commonly observed in a market’s unrefrigerated portion, but as with several shelf-steady packaged goods, it is susceptible to cross contamination when it’s opened for the to start with time. For that cause, even while furu does not spoil simply and can technically be fantastic for decades, the best thing to do is to refrigerate it soon after opening and take in it within a few months.  

How To Use It 

Not like product cheese, which can be slathered generously on bagels and bread, furu is fairly salty, with an depth a lot more akin to anchovies or fish sauce, and has to be applied sparingly. Its taste is delectable, but exceptionally strong and so will have to be employed with equilibrium and moderation.

The most simple way to use furu is to smear a small bit of it on basic, steamed bread, or incorporate it to rice congee for taste. In Southern China, a small hit of furu is typically made use of in a swift vegetable stir-fry—usually mixed with rice wine and garlic to add taste to crunchy sprigs of water spinach. 

Really serious Eats / Lorena Masso


The choices, though, are endless. When I was in China filming a video about Shanghainese cuisine, just one of my sources extra 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 very umami, the dish was like a Chinese-model ceviche and to this day—many several years later— I however imagine about it and salivate. 

According to King, it is a flexible taste enhancer in marinades and braises. That is some thing I’ve seen In Taiwan, where by furu is usually used as a marinade for bite-sized chunks of fried chicken which is then tossed in a delicious concoction of white pepper and 5-spice powder. This mix is very common at a ton of the late night time beer places to eat and pairs marvelously with an ice-chilly lager.

It also would make for a great dressing. “I​​ like earning salad with it,” says Liu. “I insert a bit of vinegar, garlic, chile, and sesame oil.” 

Even however furu can be received quite simply all over the entire world, what’s obtainable for invest in in the Western earth only skims the floor. Most furu in East Asia is homemade and makes use of the natural microorganisms in the air to inoculate the tofu. Like with artisanal cheese, just about every furu preferences a bit distinct dependent on the terroir and who’s earning it. Some variations have a deep, funky taste, some others are fairly mild and a bit acidic. “Everyone would make it in a different way,” states Liu. 

There are countless alternatives in the realm of furu and if you get your palms on a jar, start out with the guidance my hostel host in China gave me: Just consider a bit and smear it on steamed bread. For furu, a very little goes a extended way.

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