Fermented Bean Curd or tofu cheese is a favorite condiment in East Asian cuisine.
Tofu is made from soybeans, salt, sesame oil, rice wine, and vinegar.
Proteins are broken down during fermentation, resulting in a creamy texture that resembles a firm, smooth paste.
The tofu made this way is white, has a dominantly salty taste, and is barely perceptibly sweet.
Fermented Red Bean Curd uses the same basic ingredients as Fermented White Bean Curd, but red yeast rice is added to the brine.
This fermented rice has a red-purple color that it got from the mold Manascus purpureus. As a result, the flavor of Fermented Red Bean Curd is stronger and provides a more pungent umami taste.
Fermented Red Bean Curd is much more expensive than Fermented White Bean Curd.
One of the misconceptions about Fermented Bean Curd is that it originated in Japan.
This iconic condiment in East Asian cuisine was produced almost 2200 years ago in ancient China. According to one legend, this way of using soy in food has accidentally arrived.
Until the invention of tofu, soybeans were mostly eaten pureed.
Legend has it that the imperial chef, wanting to improve the taste of soybean puree and thus please his master, added nigari to the dish.
As a result of a chemical reaction, soy puree turned into a different dish – it turned into tofu.
Nigari is refined sea salt. In addition to being used to make Fermented Bean Curd, it has medicinal properties.
Nigaria is used to make the drink nigarisui, used to clean the skin, detoxify, reduce stress and fatigue, help with insomnia and colds, and is also effective in getting rid of hangovers.
All these properties are contained in Fermented Bean Curd.
The history of using Fermented Bean Curd in Japan begins with Buddhist monks who brought it there. It was eaten only in monasteries and had the status of ritual food.
Over time Fermented Bean Curd found its way out of the monastery. At first, it was enjoyed only by rich people who could afford it and only on festive occasions.
Later Fermented Bean Curd became available for general use and soon became a very popular product.
Fermented Bean Curd in the countries of East Asia is produced in wide varieties, depending, first of all, on the spices used, but also on the regions and peoples who live in them because they brought something of their gastronomic tradition and taste into each new type.
In addition to taste, Fermented Bean Curd can also be divided by hardness. There are soft and hard.
The hard ones can be cut into cubes, and during preparation, due to the density of the structure, they keep their shape, while the soft ones melt and mix with the other ingredients.
In the rest of the world, Fermented Bean Curd became known and available for wider use only in the middle of the 20th century.
Fermented Bean Curd: Medicinal properties
We have already mentioned the effect of nigari, refined sea salt, on the human body.
Since it is included in the chemical process of obtaining Fermented Bean Curd, it is clear that these medicinal properties have been preserved.
Fermented Bean Curd has a low percentage of calories, an extremely high percentage of vegetable proteins, and does not contain cholesterol.
Due to the high percentage of vegetable proteins, Fermented Bean Curd is an excellent substitute for meat or eggs.
It contains calcium, so it has a favorable effect on the vitality of teeth and bones.
In addition, it improves metabolism and has a preventive effect on the cardiovascular system.
Fermented Bean Curd contains amino acids, minerals, zinc, manganese, copper, and iron.
In addition, vitamins A, E, C, and B are included in their composition.
Fermented Red Bean Curd: Substitute
In addition to being used as a condiment, Fermented Bean Curd is also an integral part of sauces, dressings, and soups.
Fermented White Bean Curd is usually used in vegetable dishes. It is excellent in combination with spinach or watercress.
Due to its stronger aroma and taste, Fermented Red Bean Curd is often used for marinades and meat dishes.
In addition, this condiment is the “secret ingredient” of the traditional dish Buddha’s Delight, Lo Han Yan.
The aged meat in the Fermented Red Bean Curd marinade will be tender and take on an aroma.
Therefore, before adding them to the marinade, Fermented Red Bean Curd cubes should be crushed to be used more efficiently.
When choosing a substitute for Fermented Red Bean Curd, your motive for wanting to do it is crucial.
If you don’t like the aroma of Fermented Red Bean Curd and that is why you decided to replace this condiment, but you still want to keep the cubes of Fermented Bean Curd in the dish, in that case Fermented White Bean Curd would be an excellent substitute.
You could enhance the mild aroma with one of the pastes below. Or you can use Miso instead of Fermented Red Bean Curd.
In dishes where Fermented Red Bean Curd is used, melted, and mixed with other ingredients, if you don’t want to, you don’t even have to add Fermented White Bean Curd. As for the umami taste, some of the substitutes will give it to you.
Miso as an alternative to Fermented Red Bean Curd
The best substitute for Fermented Red Bean Curd is Miso. This indispensable ingredient in Japanese cuisine is fermented bean curd paste.
However, miso pastes should not be associated only with soups, as their use is much wider.
The basis for obtaining Miso is soybeans, salt, water, and Koji, which is the Aspergillus oryzae fungus that initiates fermentation but also transforms starch and proteins into amino acids and sugars with its enzymes.
In this way, Miso gets its umami properties.
These are a few types of miso paste that we suggest you use as an alternative to Fermented Bean Curd.
Shiro Miso does not have an intense taste, which is a consequence of the shorter fermentation.
Therefore, it is also known as White Miso. It is used for soups and combined with some other ingredients.
For example, it is the basis for ramen noodle soup.
As a spice, it is used in salad dressing or the marinade for roasted vegetables and the famous miso-marinated cod.
Its slightly sweet, light taste refreshes the dishes to which it is added.
Unlike White Miso, which only ferments for six months, Red Miso has a longer fermentation period of twelve to eighteen months.
In this way, Red Miso gets a red color, which can sometimes be completely dark, almost black. As a result, its taste is more robust and intensely salty.
Due to this feature, care should be taken so that the Red Miso does not overpower the other ingredients in the dish. It is used in marinades and stews.
Hatcho Miso is a type of Red Miso. It got its name from where it was first produced about eight centuries ago.
Hatcho is the name of a former village located only 870 meters from Okazaki Castle.
So what makes this perhaps the most popular Miso in Japan different from the rest? What sets it apart is the traditional way it is still produced.
Soybeans are soaked in water, and after they have absorbed the exact amount, they are steamed.
At that stage, the soybean already has a red color. Next, balls the size of tennis balls are formed. Next, Koji is added to the balls and left to ferment for several days. After that, add salt and water.
This mixture is then transferred to wooden barrels made of cedar. In these barrels, the feet compress the layers to release the air from the mixture.
The barrels are closed, and the lids are pressed with stones carefully arranged in a pyramid.
Hatcho Miso stays in barrels for exactly two years.
Avase Miso is a blend of White Miso and Red Miso. Since it was created as a combination of these two types of Miso, its taste is either the enhanced taste of White Miso or the softened and refreshed taste of Red Miso.
The impression will depend on the dish to which it is added. Since it combines two very popular Miso, Avase Miso is used in many dishes.
Dashi Iri is not a type of Miso. In Japanese dishes, it is known as umami broth. By adding Dashi Iri during production, new types of Miso are obtained.
In this way, the umami flavor is added, and the Miso retains the characteristics it would have without the addition of Dashi Iri. For example, white Miso remains mild and refreshing, and Red Miso is robust but even more umami.
Dashi Iri is made from water, katsuobushi, and kombu.
Katsuobushi is obtained from tuna that has been boiled, smoked, and fermented. The high content of inosinic acid gives katsuobushi its rich umami taste.
Katsuobushi prepared traditionally, is called karebushi. Karebushi contains much less moisture, as it is obtained by fermenting katsuobushi with the fungus Aspergillus glaucus.
Kombu is an edible seaweed. In the 20th century, kombu cultivation began, so it became available for use.
Interestingly, the umami taste was discovered in 1908 after experimenting with kombu broth.
There are several types of kombu. For example, Dashi kombu is dried kombu, Su kombu is pickled in vinegar, and Tororo kombu, or Shiraga kombu, is sold as dried pieces.
Paste as an alternative to Fermented Red Bean Curd
Doenjang is Fermented Bean Paste. The first written records of soybean fermentation in Korea from the third century AD testify that this method was used before the Three Kingdoms era.
In the traditional way to obtain Doenjang paste, soybeans are soaked overnight, then boiled in salt water and ground. This mass is shaped into cubes or balls called Meju.
Mayu is dried in a cool and dark place until they harden. After that, they go to fermentation.
The well-fermented meju cubes are washed, dried in the sun, and then immersed in containers of salt water. At the end of the meju, the cubes are mashed into Doenjang paste.
Doenjang is often eaten as a raw paste with vegetables or topped with sesame oil and garlic.
In addition, it is used as a spice in many traditional Korean dishes and for pickles.
It contains useful vitamins, plant hormones, amino acids, minerals, and flavonoids.
It has anti-cancer effects, and due to the content of linolenic and linoleic acids, it has a preventive effect on diseases of the cardiovascular system.
Douchi is a fermented black bean paste. To obtain Doushi, Black Bean is steamed and infected with the fungus Aspergillus sp. to start Koji.
Such a black bean is stored for a week after being washed, dried, and left to ferment in salt water for six months.
Such Fermented Black Bean is later made into a paste. Its taste is salty and full of umami.
The doubanjiang paste is called the soul of Sichuan cuisine. It is obtained by fermentation of broad beans, chili peppers, wheat flour, and salt. It has been produced since 1666.
The fermentation lasts two to eight years, so it has an intense umami taste. Its color is dark red, almost brown.
According to legend, Doubanjiang paste was created by accident. Some busy people put broad beans and chili peppers in the same sack before starting their journey.
When they returned from the road, they saw that the vegetables in the sack had turned into a fermented paste.
Gochujang paste salt is obtained by fermenting soybeans, glutinous rice, and red chili peppers.
The soybeans are cooked and mashed, and the chili peppers and rice are ground. Everything is mixed, and the resulting mixture is left to ferment for up to a year.
Gochujang paste is very popular in Korean cuisine. It is used in soups, marinades, and many other dishes.
Fermented Yellow Bean Paste
Fermented Yellow Bean Paste is a Chinese condiment made from Yellow Beans, salt, and water.
Depending on the fermentation method, this paste has several different types. This pasta, mixed with chili, is very popular in Thai cuisine.
The so-called dry Yellow Bean paste is also available on the market. This paste contains much less water and is easier to transport and store.
It is usually packed in transparent plastic bags.
Tianmian sauce is a traditional sauce in northern Chinese cuisine. This sauce is used in the preparation of the popular Peking duck.
It is wrong to describe Tianmian sauce as a sweet soy sauce because it is made with fermented wheat flour in larger quantities.
The mixture is 19:1 in favor of wheat flour. As a starter, dried steamed bread mantou is used, coated with various muskmelon types.
Glucose and maltose give the mixture a sweet taste during fermentation.
It is an ingredient in many dishes, but it is often eaten only with raw scallions in northern China.
Tamari sauce is easy to make if you mix soy sauce, water, and rice wine. If it is too sour, add a little honey to add sweetness.
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