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 to make the furu tofu in Miyabi, it would take a long time to have it well matured. Plus, it’s probably quite complicated. But what the heck, it’s summer and I’d rather recommend trying Japanese silken tofu prepared as hiyayakko. It’s a chilled and refreshing dish! It doesn’t have much calories and it’s just a small dish that you can have as an accompaniment to whatever you order from us. Hiyayakko can serve as a great appetizer to start. Enjoy! Just the sound of “hiya” will bring some coolness to your hot summer. It means something like cool, chilled, cold. It’s The food of summer. Though you can eat it all year round, the best time is summer and the noun itself is gendered as summer. When I say hayayakko is gendered, it’s not feminine, masculine or neuter, the Japanese don’t attach grammatically genders as we do for instance in Czech language. Instead, they recognize the genders of the seasons. Spring. Summer. Autumn. Winter. This is what the Japanese like to do – they sort of automatically assign the gender of the season to things and feel rich about it. So, for example, a handkerchief has the gender of summer, although in our country we would give winter. But in Japan, a handkerchief is used exclusively – and I stress this – to wipe sweat. If you were in Japan right now, you would certainly use the handkerchief extensively. It is hot out there. Hot and wet.
But we have hot days here too, and after all, we’re glad for them, because summer is meant to be summer and every refreshment counts.