Fermented tofu is yet another major condiment in the Chinese cuisine. It’s easier to compare the fermented tofu to the western cheese because of its funk and runny consistency. Some people also call it Chinese cheese because it has a stinky smell but an amazing taste.
Before we learn more about fermented tofu, what is tofu?
It is also known as bean curd. This Chinese native product is some food that is made from condensed milk that is pressed into solid white blocks. Its processing is quite similar to the way cheese is made.
- Wangzhihe Fermented Traditional Bean Curd 250g (Pack of 1)
WHAT IS FERMENTED TOFU?
It is a Chinese salty condiment that is made from preserved tofu. It is used in all the parts of China and a few neighboring Asian countries like Taiwan and other major cities where you find the Chinese. It’s also known as fermented bean curd, tofu cheese, soy cheese or preserved tofu.
The fermented tofu is made using soybeans, salt, water, vinegar, sesame oil and rice wine. Note that the fermented tofu has a soft and spreadable texture as well as savory taste that resembles cheese.
THE HISTORY OF FERMENTED TOFU DEVELOPMENT
It is believed that the fermented tofu originated in China but the exact date and time of origin is uncertain. An author by the name Wai discovered writings about the same from a food encyclopedia indicating that another author by the name Wang Su in 1861 had noted that the firm tofu which is today known as fermented tofu was not suitable for children.
Nonetheless, he stated that the tofu was important for the sick. These writings made Wai state that fermented tofu must have existed prior to the Ching dynasty (1662-1912). There is no proper documentation but we believe that it’s during Ching’s dynasty that the fermented tofu started to spread in East Asia.
Note that fermented tofu is not so common in Japan as it is in China.
THE PRODUCTION METHOD
If you are familiar with the cheese production method then note that this is not quite different. The production of fermented tofu happens when molds are introduced to the tofu then you let them grow for a few days.
Next, make a brine solution that contains: rice wine, vinegar, chili pepper, cinnamon, star anise, red yeast rice(optional) and ginger. Then take your fermented tofu and soak in this solution. Let it marinate for either weeks/months or a year.
You just need to keep observing to ensure that the tofu has hardened in consistency and that it has the savory flavor you need. Whenever you need to taste the fermented tofu’s flavor, just spread it on the bun then eat it.
Note that, the preparation method varies from one region to another and the type of tofu you are making although the basic steps are:
- Preparation of the tofu
- Molding or the first fermentation process
- Brining or the second fermentation process.
THE VARIETIES OF FERMENTED TOFU
There are many varieties as listed below
White fermented tofu: the variety is made using soybean, water, alcohol, sesame oil and calcium sulfate. You can alter the flavor, aroma and color using a different kind of spices,
Red fermented tofu: you can make it using the above similar ingredients with the addition of red rice yeast and wine. When you combine the red rice yeast with the brining color you will get the very deep color.
Stinky fermented tofu: its fermentation takes place for more than 6 months. It has a strong creamy flavor with a strong smell.
Chiang fermented tofu: this is made using tofu that is soaked in Chinese miso or soy sauce for a number of days. It assumes the reddish-brown color.
THE BASIC TYPES OF TOFU
- Tofu molded before picking
This is by far the most common tofu in the market today. It is the kind of tofu that is formed from the process I described above. The process involves the first fermentation and the second fermentation process.
- Molded tofu fermented with brine or salt
This is the kind that is prepared without wine or alcohol. They are tofu cubes that are fermented in brine or kept in salt
- Molded tofu with red or white ‘koji‘
Here the molded tofu is made and during the fermentation, there is an addition of rice koji/hung chu for flavor and color. It’s also used to add a second source of enzymes. The other difference is that you reduce the amount of water during fermentation.
- Molded tofu fermented in rice wine or its lees
This is prepared without the use of salt. You ferment the cubes in rice wine for about 12 hours and then later in its lees and in some places, they may use cloves, orange peels, crushed leaves and green mucor.
- Molded tofu pickled in soy sauce or miso
Here, you sprinkle salt to the molded tofu then immerse in soy sauce or miso.
TOFU THAT IS NOT MOLDED BEFORE FERMENTATION
- Tofu pickled in soy sauce or miso:Firm tofu is drained and sprinkled with salt then immersed in soy sauce
- Dried tofu is fermented with millet brandy plus red and white koji:You prepare by cutting firm tofu then immerse in ground red and white koji.
- Firm tofu fermented with wheat koji and brining liquor
- Firm tofu and wine fermentation
- Tofu fermented with brine and salt
- Tofu fermented with salt and koji
USES OF FERMENTED TOFU
- Culinary uses
This common Asian delicacy acts as a condiment to various dishes, you could combine it into sauces or use it to flavor your breakfast meals. These meals may include porridge or rice. It could work as an ingredient to your dipping sauce.
Some people use it for braised meats, stir-frying and steamed dishes. You could serve it with your steamed buns or noodles. Nevertheless, note that the red and white tofu own different flavors which are distinctly unique.
- Nutritional value
This being a soy product can convert minerals like calcium magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and copper to more soluble forms. Moreover, the fermented product increases the vitamins and minerals amounts in your body.
- Medicinal benefits
This product could help reduce cholesterol level and act as a protective agent against some cancers. It enhances the intestinal health as well as digestive tract health.
The fermented soy product also increases the hyaluronic acid which lubricates your joints and reduces the tendency for arthritis associated inflammations. Generally, this increases your bone strength while promoting the heart health.
Characteristic of fermented tofu
I would associate this with some dairy products. This is because when you put it in your mouth, you feel the same way as the cheese among other products. The characteristic is attributed to the fact that during fermentation and air-drying process, the proteins are broken down the same way as it happens in cheese products.
The fermented tofu has a strong aroma and flavor which is taken from the marinades. It is said to be salty with some hint of mild sweetness.
It has a firm, smooth paste-like taste and texture when in the mouth.
When refrigerated, the fermented tofu can be kept for a long time/for years and its flavor is believed to improve during this time.
THE BEST TYPES OF FERMENTED TOFU TO BUY
1. Helen Ou@ Hunan Chang Sha specialty
This product can last up to a year. It’s made from soybeans, chili vegetable oil, salt, calcium propionate and other spices. Understand that the stinky fermented tofu that you receive will not be crispy and tender like fresh ones.
It is made using cumin, spicy flavor, beef flavor and pickled pepper flavor.
2. Wangzhihe Fermented Traditional Bean Curd
This is one of the most famous condiments in China. Wangzhihe fermented bean curd uses carefully selected soybeans and roses which influence the spicy nature and bean curds flavor. These ingredients go through a thorough fermentation process before we get the end result which is fermented tofu.
I promise you will get addicted to this tasty and irresistible flavor. For its production the use of soybeans, cooking wines, wheat flour, sugar and salt, red kojic rice among others is employed. This is your flavor enhancer so mix it with other ingredients.
3. 王致和紅辣腐乳Wangzhihe Fermented Bean curd Red Chili Tofu
This should be your readily available condiment. I specifically love it when I am making my pork barbecue because it adds its unique flavor. The product is carefully made which makes it retain the cubic nature of the tofu while in the brine solution.
The brine solution contains red chilis which not only make it hot and spicy but also delicious. It produces that full flavor that you need as an additive to most of your meals. This is the result of a long period of fermentation.
4. Bean curd With Red Date – Fermented
This kind of fermented tofu is suspended in pureed rice wine, pureed red dates and sesame oil. The cubes of tofu are large enough and sweet. Furthermore, the fact that the tofu is being suspended in the above flavors makes it even sweeter and full of flavor as well as texture.
This fermented tofu has a strong aroma and tangy flavor that is best used over rice, as a marination to your meats, for your braised poultry and meat dishes. It can also be blended in sauces as well as soups. One thing you should know is the fact that the sauce is easy to use.
5. Beancurd – Chili with Sesame Oil
I like the fact that this tofu is suspended on rice wine, puree of chiles and sesame oil. While the fermented tofu is generally sweet, rich and spicy in flavor, this brine solution further enhances the flavor.
It has an intense aroma with a great tangy flavor which you could serve over rice or on your braised meats. It can also be blended into sauces.
6. Szechuan Fermented Tofu
This contains your fermented white tofu. You can use the flavorful ingredient to enhance your meals like rice porridge. It is a quality product with a strong aroma and distinctive flavor which is good for your marination.
I like the way it feels in the mouth when I’m eating it. It’s smooth yet firm making it tempting to eat a lot of it.
7. Sichuan Flavor Spicy Snack Tofu Spicy Bean Curd
The spicy bean curd is rich in flavor and aroma. This is more so because of the use of Sichuan flavors which is known to be hot and spicy. The flavor has a nice chili soy mixture. It is utterly delicious and nicely packaged for you to use one at a time.
It is made using soybean, water, salt, vegetable oil, sugar, spicery, fermented soya beans, pepper, sesame paste, zanthoxylum oil and food additives. it’s further appealing to the eyes and should be stored in cool dry place to increase the shelf life.
8. Fermented Beancurd Tofu (Chunk) in dressing with mini Minced Chili -Spicy 10.5 oz
This is a Taiwan product that entails bean curd cubes that are preserved in rice wine and seasonings like minced chili. The fermented beancurd tofu has the best texture which is spreadable, salty and with a savory taste.
You may use it in steamed and stir-fried dishes, as part of the different cooking methods or as a dipping sauce. You can serve it directly with steamed buns, noodles and congee.
9. Yellow Date incense white fermented bean curd
This authentically Taiwan product is made using white fermented tofu then preserved in a mixture of seasonings and rice wine. The product like most other fermented tofu, is delicious and aromatic making it easy to use as a major flavor enhancing ingredient to most dishes.
10. 王致和白腐乳Wangzhihe Fermented Beancurd Tofu (Chunk)
This one has chunks of white fermented tofu for you to eat. It is richly flavored with a strong aroma and nice texture. It is good additive to your breakfast rice porridge and other Asian meals. You can also use it on top of your steamed buns.
Now that since you now know how the fermented tofu looks like and its uses, you may choose to buy it in one of the Asian markets or in the online stores of your choice.