Fermented bean curd, also commonly known as sufu, fermented tofu, preserved tofu or tofu cheese, is a commonly use condiment in East Asian culinary preparations. It is a processed and preserved tofu and is made from soybeans. Stinky tofu, or chòu dòufu, is one of the most well known forms of sufu.
Bascially, all fermented tofu products can be classified into 2 categories - the traditional Chinese-style produces and the more modern Westernized cheese-like products. While the former is the true fermented tofu, the latter is known as 'fermented tofu cheeses'. In places where traditional sufu is preferred and used, the Westernized versions are not marketed or used.
To make fermented tofu salt, soybean, rice wine and sesame oil or vinegar are used. The ingredients are all mixed together and then fermented in a salt brine.
History and Origin of Tofu Cheese
Liu An, the king of Wainan has often been credited as the inventor of fermented bean curd, and after the product was created, it is believed that the Han Dynasty in China started its production and marketing first. While there are many who dispute this theory, it is generally agreed that it is around this time that the first fermented soybean curd was made.
One theory says that the product was actually invented by the common folk of China while looking for a way to preserve soybean curd that had already gone bad.
Culinary Uses of Sufu
Fermented bean curd is a common ingredient in various food preparations, particularly in China. It is often used as a flavoring agent for rice, gruel, congee or porridge. In addition, it is also served by itself. Several bricks of preserved tofu are placed in a small bowl and then covered with flavored brine. The tofu is then either consumed alone or broken into smaller chunks and then consumed with gruel or porridge.
In small amounts, tofu cheese is added to braised and stir-fried vegetables to add taste to the preparations. Green leafy vegetables like water spinach also get added flavor from the condiment.
Preserved Tofu Trivia
Wang Su-Hsiung of the Qing Dynasty made references to preserved bean curd in this Food Encyclopedia. In the encyclopedia, Su-Hsiung stressed that fermented bean curd is superior and more beneficial than the hard-to-digest, hardened tofu, especially for children, the elderly and those suffering from health ailments.