豆腐乳 (dòufu rǔ / spicy veggies with bean curd paste)

豆腐乳Sometimes called “Chinese cheese,” fermented bean curd has a similar mouthfeel to certain dairy products. The fermentation breaks down proteins, giving the bean curd a texture like smooth paste. Red bean curd is simply taken from the jar and added to recipes or served as a condiment. It is expensive, priced about four times as much as regular tofu.

Red bean curd is basic white bean curd with added ingredients that turn the mixture red. Like all bean curds, the soybean curd is first dried (air-dried or dried by a chemical process) and then added to a brine of rice wine and other seasonings. To make red bean curd, fermented rice that is bright red-purple (called red yeast rice), is combined with the brining liquid creating not only the red color but also a distinct aroma and flavor. Some recipes will contain chile, adding to the red hue and offering some spice. 

In Chinese cooking, a small amount of fermented bean curd is used to add flavor to a variety of dishes. Because of the fermentation, red bean curd is often used to marinate beef and poultry, as the alcohol quality will help tenderize the meat before it is slow-cooked or deep-fried. Cubes of red bean curd are packaged in jars along with a thick sauce; the cubes can be added to recipes where they will melt into the rest of the ingredients as they cook. If making a marinade, the cubes are usually mashed prior to adding to the recipe.

Fermented bean curd is incorporated into everything from rice and congee to vegetable stir-fries and braised dishes. It is also combined into sauces that go alongside a hot pot. When eaten with a dish like porridge, it is not directly mixed in; instead, a chunk of the brick is broken off and then eaten along with a spoonful of the rice dish.

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