Why It Works
- Fermented bean curd imparts a salty-sweet depth that's a nice change from soy sauce or oyster sauce.
- Cauliflower holds up well to its strong flavor.
Now I know I've already called fermented black beans "the anchovies of Chinese cuisine," but cubes of fermented bean curd run a close second. Actually, fermented bean curd is often compared to cheese because it has a certain funk and runny consistency.
How is it made? Cubes of tofu are first fermented, then soaked in brines that contain a number of ingredients: rice wine, vinegar, chile peppers, cinnamon, star anise, and red yeast rice, the last which imparts the deep red hue that you'll see in certain varieties.
In Chinese households, you're likely to find fermented bean curd set out with accoutrements (pickles, meat floss, thousand year eggs) for a breakfast with rice porridge.
One cube is usually enough for the whole family, and the practice is to dab at it with the tip of your chopsticks, then mix it in a little with your porridge.
But if eating fermented bean curd straight-up isn't for you, try stir-frying vegetables with it. One or two cubes can flavor a whole stir-fry dish, imparting a salty-sweet depth that's a nice change from soy sauce or oyster sauce. Fleshy and dense vegetables, like cauliflower, take well to its strong flavor.
Eating fermented tofu with porridge is my preferred method of consumption. A few briny dabs really appease my almost insatiable penchant for salt. Straight out of the jar, it's a treat not unlike a whole pickle.
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into 1/4-thin slices
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons water or stock
3 cubes red or white fermented bean curd
Heat oil in a large wok over high heat until smoking. Add the cauliflower and stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Push to the sides and add garlic to center. Stir-fry until golden, about 30 seconds. Toss garlic and cauliflower together.
Add the water or stock and cover the wok with a lid. Let the liquid simmer until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Remove the lid and add the cubes of fermented bean curd. Break up the bean curd with a spatula and toss the cauliflower around to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.
To learn more about tofu, check out our guide to tofu types here.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7g||10%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||3%|
|Total Carbohydrate 11g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 32mg||160%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|