Furu Is The Umami-Bursting Fermented Tofu That'll Transform Any Dish

Since its identification in 1907 by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, umami — or the "essence of deliciousness" in Japanese — has quickly found its way into our lives and everyday meals (we are most certainly not complaining). This fifth core taste is extremely rich in a deep savory flavor. We're familiar with the likes of umami in green tea, mushrooms, soy foods, kimchi, and even tomatoes. But what if we told you there were other luscious umami-tasting foods out there? And that they specifically involve tofu?

Tofu has a long and fascinating history, yet despite its familiarity on our dining tables, certain variations of it may remain unfamiliar. Welcome furu! A common pantry staple throughout East and South-East Asia, this creamy cheese-like tofu has a tangy, funky taste that will shoot an umami burst into any dish. Fermented tofu may not sound like the most appetizing addition to your meals, but if you trust us, we can show you the way. 

Tofu cream cheese?

Tofu continues to surprise us with its versatile variations, as demonstrated by the delicious snack option of tofu skin, which is far more appetizing than its sounds. Well, furu is the new (old) kid on the block. Furu is fermented bean curd, the literal translation in Mandarin Chinese is tofu cream. Resembling the texture of cream cheese, furu should be smooth and easily spreadable. However, unlike cream cheese, its taste can range from pungent to mild and fishy to salty. It can sometimes even be comparable to anchovies, which explains why it has that wonderful umami depth.

Usually purchased in a jar, furu is in cube-like shapes that are white or red depending on the brine. Different varieties are available, from spicy to classic, and some furu is even fermented in various liquors (Shaoxing wine, for example). This will, of course, impact its taste. Yet the base flavor of these variations continues to share a commonality: a deeply savory and slightly spiced taste with a hint of sweetness. The very essence of umami flavor. This makes furu so unique and why it can add such a remarkable depth to any dish.

A burst of umami greatness

Alone, furu can be used as a spread or vegan cheese. It can also be smashed into a seasoning mix, working well with sugar, Shaoxing wine, pepper, water, and salt. This can then be added to stir-fried vegetables such as cabbage or water spinach. The furu seasoning complements the vegetables beautifully, bringing an umami burst that will have you hooked immediately. But let's not stop at stir-fried vegetables! Furu can be mixed into congee and used as a marinade. It can also be mixed with Chinese sesame paste to create a Beijing hot pot dipping sauce. It's nutty and deeply delicious.

Yet furu is not confined to Asian cooking alone. We've already seen soy sauce sneaking its way into our tomato sauce to add an umami boost, so why not furu too? Well, this is most definitely a great idea to try, if you're feeling more adventurous, why not make a furu carbonara? You might consider us crazy, but this fusion blend is pure genius. The furu takes the place of the cheese in the recipe and can likewise make this recipe dairy-free. Trust us, this funky take on a true classic will have you wondering what exactly can't furu be used in.