I grew up in an area with a strong Japanese influence. This may explain my love of Asian foods such as natto, tempeh, miso and others. But my very favorite food as a girl was chicken mafa. I asked for it for every birthday or celebration day, and begged for it as often as I felt I could get away with it. I’ve been experimenting with some methods for making the special ingredient for this dish at home: funyu or sufu. I’m sure someone out there can help me determine what the different names this ferment goes by. Growing up, we always called it ‘furu.’ When I finally found it in my local Asian food store, it was labelled funyu. To make things more complicated, when I hunted for recipes to make it all I could find was ‘sufu,’ or simply ‘stinky tofu.’ My kids certainly prefer the name ‘stinky tofu!’ Whatever you call it, it lends a lovely tangy spice to foods and helps to create the best fried chicken in the world. There are two ways I’ve had success making it. The first is very quick and easy and only requires simple lacto-fermentation. That recipe can be found on our site here. Lacto-fermented Sufu The other method results in a more cultured sufu, and requires a little more effort. Cube the tofu as before, this time using a full pound. Dry with a hair dryer or in a dehydrator until the surface is no longer moist. Add tempeh starter and 2 Tbsp of vinegar and dry again with the hair dryer. Spread the cubes in a baking pan and cover loosely. Hold the tofu at 86-88 degrees for 36-50 hours. Once you see the tofu fully covered in white mold, turn and continue culturing until all surfaces are covered. So white and fluffy! Break up the tofu into cubes again (it doesn’t have to be perfect) and pack them into a 2 quart jar. Cover with same ingredients used in the Lacto-fermented Sufu, but double the amounts of each. I found I prefer using more pepper flakes than originally called for, but feel free to adjust to taste. Allow the tofu to ferment at room temperature in the brine as before. Aging in the fridge may seem like an extra, unnecessary step, but it’s important for developing the flavor. The tofu should keep for several months in a tightly closed jar. Enjoy the sufu as a marinade ingredient in my favorite chicken or pork mafa, added to salad dressing, or served in a bowl of rice with a big scoop of natto.
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