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Sufu (Chinese.), aka fermented tofu, aka Furu (Japanese): your Uses?

Sufu is great stuff, and strong stuff, and I'm curious how other folks uses it.

The sufu I am talking about is NOT the fish-brine fermented tofu of Taiwan that is also called "stinky" tofu.

Obviously, nomenclature is a problem here. The product I'm referring to is described and pictured here: (scroll down to midpage for Su-Fu and sufu.)

One is my uses that I posted in http://www.chowhound.com/topics/391263 is clipped here (for adding aged taste to mac and cheese):
"Get some sufu, aka furu, aka fermented tofu. It comes in ca. 16 oz glass jars at the Asian stores. It's ripe-ripe-ripe. Cubes packed in brine (also varieties that are oil/chile packed, etc) It looks gross and scary to the first-time user. Consensus among sufu-eaters is that the older and grosser, the better. Usually around 1.5 - 2 bucks a jar. Smash it and incorporate it into your macNcheese sauce. It will raise the sauce from bland, and elevate it to one tasting like it was made from mature cheeses."

Okinawans, who do some unique melds between Chinese and Japanese cuisine, have a slightly different process. Trigeler, can you illuminate us on Tofu-yu? Does it come in brine jars like the Su-fu pictured above? Is it readily available on Honshu? It's cited by the "Okinawa Diet" authors as one of the components they believe to be responsible for Okinawan longevity.

As to the "Stinky tofu", which is fermented in fermented seafood solutions, there's a CH thread here:

Also, an old ch thread (2000) that veers into natto and miso and others but still refers to "fermented bean curd" is here:

I try to eat this stuff at least twice a week, but find myself extremely non-creative with it, being content to plop a cube on a saucer and nibble away at it with chopsticks. Surely other recipes exist.... any Hounds have some?

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  1. I love chinese furo/funyu. You can eat it ocha-zuke style which is hot tea poured over a bowl of rice with two blocks of furo thrown on top. Goes good with grilled hamburger patties, steaks, grilled weiners, etc.
    I also love natto!!!

    1. I also love this stuff. My mum used it when stir frying green beans or amaranth

      It is scary for some of those encountering it for the first time. My hubby won't go near it. I usually mix it into my congee or plain steamed rice with vegetables. My favourite are the ones with chili.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrsleny

        The chili one is the only one I buy now a days.
        In the old days their was only Quong Hop brand furo.
        I have not seen that brand for some time.

      2. I love it when I'm stir-frying some greens such as water spinach, bok choy or Chinese broccoli.

        1. I use it as a sauce for my spaghetti with some sesame oil. Simple and yummy!

          1. I love to eat funyu ('fungui' in Toishan, I think) with plain white rice. The first time my wife saw me eating it, she said it looked like a block of snot...so in our house, it's known as 'snot bricks'.

            1. Fu Yue in Cantonese. My favorite way to use it is to stir fry it with Chinese or Japanese eggplant.

              1. Tofu-yo of Okinawa is a lot like Funyu (Sufu) but a lot less so.
                It is much milder, and doesn't have that wild gamey flavor.
                Actually, compared to the fermented tofu from China, it is sort of boring.
                It comes in jars, but I have only had it in Okinawan restaurants, which have spiked in popularity recently here in Tokyo. I am sure it is available in Okinawan food stores here in Tokyo, the most popular one being the one run by Okinawan prefecture, located in Ginza 2-chome. I think the Okinawan version is quite old, and an adaptation from the Chinese variety. The Okinawans have been trading with the Chinese for over 600 years, according to some accounts. The Okinawan spirit "awamori" is very much like Chinese spirits, and not at all like sho-chu, native Japanese spirits made from either sweet potatoes (imo), barley (mugi), rice (kome) or buckwheat (soba). By the way, I eat funyu much the way you do, nibbling with chopsticks as a condiment on the side of (usually) Chinese food. Have it only about once a week, whereas nattoh is on the table two or three times a week.

                1. I love natto , but have never tried fermented tofu from china. Do they taste similar? I keep hearing wonderful things about it, but keep forgetting to check it out at the local grocery store. Also, does it stink up the house when you heat it up?

                  oh and does anyone know if there is a similar product to be found in korea? I know koreans eat something similar to natto (very very delicious in a stew), but have never heard of or seen anything about fermented tofu

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bitsubeats

                    Hello bits,
                    I don't think it stinks but I'm a guy.
                    I am trying to . . . well here goes.
                    Funyu is to tofu what
                    kimchee is to cabbage--
                    natto to edamame
                    anchovies is to sashimi
                    fried spam is to raw spam
                    etcetera, etc.
                    I hope that helps.

                  2. I call it fu yu. I know a guy who called it chinese cheese. I put it on rice, in jook, stir fry with veggies, mixed into a savory custard, spread on toast, basically anywhere you could use a strong flavour or where you might normally use cheese. My chinese cheese friend ate it straight out of the jar on a cracker (which explains why he calls that).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sweetie

                      i grew up calling knowing it also as chinese cheese. i usually eat it with fu gua(bitter melon) or just white rice.

                    2. Oh, I forgot. My grandpa use to make a dish with, believe it or not, iceberg lettuce and dried shrimp and the fermented tofu. Wow, I miss and loved this dish.

                      1. When fu yee is used for cooking, usually a little bit of sugar is mashed with it for balance. I use some fu yee to season the ground pork filling to make stuffed peppers. My mom has some really old stuff that's almost charcoal gray in color.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Actually, I think the most common use for this fermented tofu is to use it sparingly as a seasoning when cooking food. In that sense, it is a lot like how miso is used. I don't know about the difference in using the white type vs the red type, and also note there is a so-called sichuan (szechwan) type that is white with pepper flakes in the liquid.

                          Like with fish sauce, using it sparingly is the key because it really expands out with a lot of flavor when diluted. I personally like about a half cube of it in jook, along with those black preserved eggs, but apparently that is not a common way of eating jook.

                          1. re: Tripeler

                            I think that is a more common way of eating jook than you think. There are different styles or varieties of eating jook. I have both Cantonese and Mandarin in my family and the two styles of eating jook is very different.

                            1. re: justagthing

                              That's encouraging to hear. I have no ethnic Chinese people in my largely white (tr*sh) family background, but am always looking to broaden my outlook. I am not alone.

                              1. re: Tripeler

                                Yum -- jook or congee with furu and a black preserved egg -- one of my favorite things, with a little roasted sesame oil and scattering of chopped cilantro on top!

                              2. re: justagthing

                                Yes. In Thailand, jook was served for breakfast with fish sauce and chiles and lots of white pepper.

                          2. I fell in love with furu during a recent trip to china. Besides stir-frying it with garlic and green vegetables and eating it in congee, I've been using it in salad dressing--gives it a roquefort-like richness without the fat. I mash it up with olive oil and mix in shallots, a little mustard, and sherry vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

                            1. Just plain with rice. But not so much anymore (possible preservatives). Also stir fried veggies and other stir fries.

                              1. In china the white furu cubes with red sauce are often stirred until they are a bright light red sauce. This is then used together with various other ingredients to make a dipping sauce for chinese hot pot. Another use is to fry some short ribs in oil, then add water, salt, soy sauce, and furu and braised the ribs until tender, falling off the bone. This makes a very rich flavored rib that goes well with rice. But my next attempt will be to try some kind of furu stuffed mushroom....no clue whether it will work as a fusion appetizer...

                                1. I like it for breakfast with soupy white rice and a soft yolk fried egg with soy sauce. Simple but so good, especially on a cold morning.

                                  1. My favorite brand of furu is Huang Ri Xiang (sorry about the spelling but word by word it means "yellow" "sun" "fragrance"), especially the spicy ones in chili oil. I use them to braise baby back ribs.

                                    I get the whole slab of ribs from Chinese market and have them cut length wise into 3 or 4 stips, then I cut each strip into small pieces so each piece has a bone--like how it's served at the dim sum place. I heat some oil in the wok, add the ribs, stir them a minute or so, then add furu (2-3 pieces depending on how much ribs I use) and some of the brines (add some sugar and sesame oil if you don't like it too salty), continue to stir for a minute, then reduce heat, and let braise for 3 to 5 minutes. Delicious!

                                    1. Does anyone know how to make this stuff at home?

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: takadi

                                        This is one I've left to the pros, simply because it is so cheap to buy.

                                        The first link in the OP (chariot.net) leads to a page maintained by a skilled fermenter. He may have more detailed instructions.

                                        In China, some of the oldtimers make this at home, so it's doable. Flowcharts of the process are at these two links:



                                        Let us know how it works out if you decide to give it a go.

                                        1. re: FoodFuser

                                          It looks like the process is remarkably similar to cheese making, something which the beginner fermenter like me can't touch just yet (I'm only on regular soy sauces and looking into beer and wine making). Cheese making, Chinese or otherwise, will have to wait I guess.

                                      2. Along with eating with rice, it makes a great base for stir-fries as mentioned.

                                        When I go all out and make dry-fried green beans, I sautee garlic, shallots, ginger, some pickled szechuan mustard greens, dried shrimp and a cube of dofu ru. Add soy sauce and black rice vinegar and some sugar. Toss this sauce with fried green beans. Salty complex goodness with a bowl of white rice! Yum!

                                        1. I recenly started to use fermented tofu, and like it a lot!
                                          However, I have a problem with it - when I open a can and pick up a few cubes, the brine level will sink below the cubes at the top, and the parts sticking up will get change color from white to grey in just two days, get slimy and start to smell bad.
                                          Thus, I thought it would help to fill the can with water until all the tofu cubes were covered - this helped for some days, but after maybe four days I got the same problem again - the top part of the cubes in the top layer start to turn grey.
                                          Is there something I can do to make it stay fresh?

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: carl314

                                            Hmm, never had that problem.

                                            Are you refrigerating it? Mine keeps in the fridge for ages, but I usu. consume a jar in about a week or so after I buy it. Not because I fear spoilage, but because, well, it's so good on so many things.

                                            I wouldn't add additional water, it just dilutes the brine.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Thanks for your reply!
                                              Yes, I keep it it in the fridge. In fact I read at wikipedia that "Refrigerated, it can be kept for several years, during which time its flavor is believed to improve."
                                              (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermente...


                                              And yes, I will not try to add water again. In fact, the water I added seems to stay in its own layer above the brine without really mixing with the brine. But the fermented tofu doesn't seem to keep well in the water.

                                              1. re: carl314

                                                "the parts sticking up will get change color from white to grey in just two days, get slimy and start to smell bad."


                                                In rereading your original post, I should note that grey and slimy is not a bad sign, nor a bad thing. Also, what smells "bad" to you may not necessarily be a sign of spoilage. Chinese fermented tofu (or sufu) doesn't exactly exude fragrant aromas when opened up, if you know what I mean.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  maybe I should stop worrying about the colour changes then.
                                                  Maybe I exaggerated regarding the smell being bad - though there is clearly a difference in aroma between the grey cubes and the more clean soy aroma of the white cubes.

                                                  1. re: carl314

                                                    I think the white and grey cubes will smell different because the grey cubes are no longer soaking in brine and may have oxidized in the air, causing a change in smell. Just a guess.

                                            2. re: carl314

                                              It's not going bad. It's already GONE bad. That's what makes it so tasty!

                                            3. we like the non-spicy kind (hwang ryh shiang brand from Taiwan, wh is like the classic quong hop) and, among other uses (mostly with congee), spread it like jam on a toasted, buttered English muffin.