This great recipe came about by mistake. I’d mistakenly thought that I had a key ingredient – bean sauce, for a recipe in Grace Young’s terrific Chinese cookbook, Breath of a Wok. But I went ahead and made the recipe and it turned out really really well. The reason was fermented tofu (fu ru).
The dish in question was a stir-fried clam in bean sauce. Yours truly swore that she had a jar of Chinese fermented bean sauce in the fridge. I looked and looked but to no avail. The recipe also called for white fermented tofu (chao in Vietnamese, bai fu ru in Mandarin), which I keep on hand as a pantry item.
What is fermented tofu? Sometimes referred to as “Chinese cheese”, fermented tofu is like a cross between camembert and blue cheese stored in a brine of rice wine, salt, and sometimes chile too. I’ve made it myself (there’s a great recipe in Asian Tofu on page 41) and buy it too. My favorite brands come from Taiwan and are sold at Chinese markets.