Dear friends! During my visit to the north of China, I noticed in the hotel that every day on the breakfast buffet there were several bowls with some soft cubes in scarlet sauce, which not many people took. Certainly not any of us four Czechs. It wasn’t until the third morning that I dared to take a bowl of this food to a large round table, where we had breakfast with our two Chinese colleagues, professors. I asked, “what is it?”, and they told me with a mysterious smile on their faces that it was a mature fermented tofu. They thought their answer would discourage me. The reclining tofu even smelled slightly like ripening cheese. I tried. “It’s like foie gras!” I blurted out, excited by the discovery. Great. Delicatessen. I immediately brought a small toast of white bread, which they had there in case there was a foreigner like me in the hotel, and another bowl of the scarlet gift. I was happy that I had such a goody for my breakfast. Beautifully familiar. Like at home, if only I usually ate foie gras for breakfast. Of course not. Despite my sincere recommendations, only my colleague Simon tasted furu. He was excited too.
It wasn’t until later in the book Umami by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek that I read that fermented Chinese tofu is called furu, a product that has a lot to do with tempeh and that we can both see it as siblings with cheese. And they also compared furu to foie gras! Let me add to my experience another experience, when I ate a very delicate pate on a Grand restaurant menu at Monarch restaurant. Perhaps they will excuse me at Monarch, but I really remembered my experience in China at that time in their restaurant. Their pate was not smelly of course, but the softness was so delicate. Like furu.
Furu. When we call fermented tofu furu “Chinese cheese”, we are not far from the essence of the product. I recommend! If you ever have the opportunity to taste furu, give yourself courage. It has a fine structure with a hint of cream, slightly sweet inside. It is good to ferment the material for about half a year. It contains 381mg of glutamate per 100g. Means it must be good! Must be “umai” in Japanese! The word “umami”, meaning the fifth basic taste, is a noun to the Japanese word “umai”, which as an adjective means good, delicious, tasty. That is, how it attracts our taste receptors to the fifth taste of umami. Umami is a taste that we like.
Even if we wanted to try furu in Miyabi, it would take a long time for it to mature. But now it’s summer, even though there are only a few weeks left and we still may enjoy tofu. Like in the zen teaching of “here and now”. I therefore recommend you to eat a chilled fresh silk tofu, especially that made in Japan. It’s called hiyayakko. You can have it simply with grated ginger and soy sauce. You can also add katsuobushi shavings. This is a classic. Or prepare it my favorite way with onion dressing and tomatoes. Hiyayakko! How beautiful it sounds! Hiya means chilled. And yakko? That means chopping up as only a samurai can. Yes, such is hiyayakko – it is a tofu cube, divided sharply into smaller cubes. A simple meal that simply must not be missed in the summer. Did you know that hiyayakko is a symbol of the Japanese summer? Some materials and objects take a gender in Japan. It is not a feminine, masculine or middle gender, Japanese grammar does not know it, but it is a gender of the season. Hiyayakko is summer, gender summer and since we will have to say goodbye to summer soon, let’s enjoy hiyayakko tofu. At home or here in Miyabi!