Fermented tofu, or Chao (Chinese cheese), has been made and enjoyed in China for thousands of years. However, it can be a bit difficult to find, so here is a fabulous recipe for you to make your own.
Fermented tofu is a tasty addition to soups, marinades, sauces, and more. It has many benefits, too.
If you eat tofu as a protein source, you’ll be happy to know that fermented tofu has twice the amount of protein as fresh tofu. Fermented tofu is also easier to digest and absorb and is rich in zinc and vitamin B, as well as other nutrients.
Here is your recipe for making fermented tofu from scratch.
- One package (about 16 ounces, or 450 grams) of firm tofu
- 2 teaspoons bouillon powder (vegetable or chicken-based)
- 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorn powder
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup + 1/4 cup white wine, separated
- 1 cup (scant) sesame oil
First of all, you’ll want to rinse and dry your tofu. Remove it from the package, drain any excess water, and dry it with a clean towel.
Now you need to press it to remove as much of the moisture inside as possible. The reason for pressing is that the drier your tofu, the better it will absorb the marinade’s flavors.
You can do this in one of two ways: by hand or with a tofu press.
Place the tofu inside a colander in your sink or over a bowl that can catch the liquid. Cover the tofu with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Place a weight or another heavy object on top of your tofu, and leave to drain overnight.
With a tofu press:
Put the tofu into a tofu press (like the one at Tofubud), and leave it to drain for 30 minutes. Done!
The Fermentation Process
Once your tofu is fully drained, remove it from the towel and cut it into cubes. (You want to have small cubes that are about an inch square.)
Place the tofu cubes onto a perforated plate or in the bottom of a steamer (the steamer’s perforated base is ideal. If you don’t have a perforated plate, you can spread out the tofu on a standard plate and turn it once a day.)
Cover your tofu to protect it with a lid or some plastic wrap, and leave it out at room temperature to ferment for about five days.
You will soon notice the smell of fermentation, and on the third day, some small amounts of mold should form. On the fifth day, you can check the consistency. Poke inside one of the cubes with a chopstick to check that the inside is like cheese.
If the tofu is soft enough to your liking, it’s done fermenting. Otherwise, if you prefer it to be even softer, leave it to ferment for another day or two.
Seasoning Your Tofu
Now mix the dry ingredients, and spread them out on a plate.
Note: You may want to toast the chili powder and Sichuan peppercorn powder in a skillet for a few minutes and leave to cool. Toasting these spices isn’t necessary, but it will make your seasoning more fragrant.
Put 1/3 cup of the white wine into a bowl. Dip each piece of tofu into the wine, then roll in the seasoning to coat each piece evenly.
The Final Steps
Carefully place your seasoned tofu cubes into a jar (that has a lid) and pour 1/4 cup of white wine over the top. Make sure your jar is big enough to hold another cup of liquid, as you’ll add the sesame oil later.
Seal your jar and leave it at room temperature for 24 hours.
Now pour in the sesame oil so that the tofu cubes are fully submerged. Put the jar in the fridge to let set for at least a few days – the longer, the better.
When you remove some tofu for eating, make sure the rest stays submerged, adding more sesame oil if you need to.
Your fermented tofu will keep in the fridge for up to one year!
If you have any leftover seasoning, you can use it for BBQ dishes.
If you are unsure how to eat your fermented tofu, here are some ideas:
- Pop some into a stir fry or a cooked rice dish
- Blend some with other ingredients to create a tasty dipping sauce
- Put some cubes into a soup