Red Wet Tofu

So … in my experimentations with making char siu — the Cantonese-style barbecued pork — I stumbled upon this. It’s Chinese red wet bean curd. It is key in a lot of the recipes I’ve found for making the sauce. And it is … *really* unfortunately named.

Although, as it turns out, the name is the least weird thing about this little gem of a find. What it is is tofu that has been fermented in a mixture of sugar, wine, salt, and powdered red rice. It is strongly salty. And a little bit creamy. And it has a kind of alcoholic burn at the end.

Oh, and did I mention that it comes with what looks like little flecks of mold floating in it? I’ve done some poking around on the Internet, and am given to understand that that’s normal. But it’s still pretty weird.

Which is not to say that red wet bean curd is bad. Quite the opposite. I’m actually kind of enamored. I added a couple of cubes and some of the brine to my char siu sauce, and it is definitely an improvement. But I’m pretty sure that it is best left as an ingredient in other, more complex dishes. I also ate a cube, and it was … strong. To say the least. It was definitely tasty, but it left me with a feeling like I had just eaten a clove of raw garlic. It opened my sinuses. And it still feels a little bit like it is burning my stomach.

I’m not sure that I have a real point here, except to showcase an interesting ingredient. I think it’s one that I intend to keep around. And I will *definitely* be on the lookout for other dishes to use it in. Like nuoc mam — Thai fish sauce — I think that this has a lot of potential in a whole array of dishes that need a strong bottom note. I’m thinking, among other things, in European-style dishes that call for things like anchovies and capers.

Any further ideas about what to do with this stuff would be very much appreciated.