The main ingredient in fu is gluten. In China gluten is called the “heart of the wheat.” In the west, gluten is used to make mock meat: vegetarian chicken, duck, goose, mutton, fish etc. Most of these are already flavored and ready to eat. However, they usually come with poor quality soy sauce, MSG, sugar, etc. In Japan gluten is mainly used to make fu.
When you add water to wheat flour, water molecules combine with two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, to form gluten. At first the protein molecules are tangled and chaotic, but as the dough is mixed and water is added to wash away the starch the protein molecules line up with each other, forming longer strands of gluten. The more you knead the dough, the stronger and more elastic the gluten becomes. A wheat flour that is rich in gluten is used. A little bit of salt is added to make the gluten shrink.
Most of the fu that is eaten in Japan is wheat gluten mixed with wheat flour or sometimes rice flour. You may wonder why wheat flour is mixed with the gluten. It is added to get the balance of starch and gluten just right. If wheat flour is added to the gluten, about fifty percent gluten and fifty percent wheat flour is used. If rice flour is added, about sixty percent gluten and forty percent rice flour is used.
- Gluten mixed with wheat flour is used to make baked (yaki) fu. Baked fu is sometimes cut up into little pieces and put in Japanese miso soup (miso shiru), similar to the way crou^tons are made and used. Sometimes baked fu is cut up into bigger pieces and eaten as it is. Baked fu is dry, and has a long shelf life. In times past it was an important food staple in Japan. These larger pieces of fu are also sometimes put in a soup broth. An egg, beans and okra (okura) are then added. The dish sugomori at Kazuko Miyata's SUZAN restaurant includes these ingredients.
Gluten mixed with rice flour is used to make raw (nama)fu. Once the raw fu is made, other natural ingredients are sometimes added. This raw fu is sometimes sprinkled with lime and dipped in soy sauce.
- Sometimes it is fried, like a steak is fried, with soy sauce, sweet sake, garlic and fresh vegetables.
- Sometimes it is deep fried and then dipped in a walnut miso or a black sesame miso.
- Sometimes it is made into a dessert fu: bean paste (anko) is put inside and it is sometimes wrapped in bamboo grass.
- This pure gluten is finely cut up, boiled with soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Then sesame or ginger are added. This fu is sprinkled on rice and eaten.
Miyata SUZAN fu restaurant
Kanazawa city, Higashiyama 3-16-8
Phone: 0762 52 6262