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Home arrow Macrobiotic Articles arrow From Mitoku arrow FU GLUTEN CAKES
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 04 November 2004


Everything you ever wanted to know about FU and more, including recipes. Content provided by The Mitoku Company

Fu was developed centuries ago by Buddhist monks, probably as a meat substitute. There are many types of fu, but most resemble a crisp, light biscuit. With 29 percent protein and less than 1 percent fat, dried fu (wheat gluten), like tofu and tempeh, is an Asian food with great potential for health-conscious consumers. Versatile, quick cooking, and easy to prepare, fu adapts to any style of cooking. It has a mild, pleasant flavor and, when cooked, absorbs other flavors exceptionally well. Easy to digest, salt-free, and nutritious, fu is considered an excellent food for children and sick people.


The first step in making fu is the same as for seitan (seasoned wheat gluten): wheat flour is mixed with water and kneaded to activate the wheat's natural gluten. After resting for an hour or so, the dough is rinsed to remove the starch (carbohydrate) and bran, thus concentrating the gluten (protein) of the wheat. Up to this point, the process is the same as for making seitan. However, the rubbery gluten is next mixed with an equal amount of wheat flour. The dough is rolled out, cut into strips that are wrapped around long metal poles, and baked until slightly browned. Depending on the variety of fu being made, up to three more strips of dough may be added and baked, one layer at a time. The fu is then lightly steamed to soften its texture and leaven it. Finally it is sliced, dried, and packaged.

There are several types of fu based on shape. The most common of these are kuruma, zeni, zenryu, and shonai fu. In Japanese kuruma means "wheel" and zeni, "coin." Both are doughnut shaped, but kuruma fu is much larger. Zenryu fu is an intermediate-sized, doughnut-shaped whole wheat variety. Shonai fu is a thin, flat variety. While all the other types are a combination of wheat gluten and unbleached white flour, Mitoku's round Zenryu Fu is made with half gluten flour and half whole wheat flour.


Fu can be cooked in a variety of ways to add interest as well as substantial protein to whole foods cuisine. Some of the most popular ways of enjoying fu are the simplest. A few pieces added to vegetable soup transform it into a protein-rich stew. When cooking with fu, keep in mind that beans or soy seasonings such as miso and shoyu complement and increase its usable protein.

For most recipes, fu is first reconstituted by soaking in lukewarm water for 5-10 minutes. When it is soft, gently squeeze out excess water and add the fu to stews, casseroles, beans, and simmered vegetable dishes. For a clear soup, simmer whole cakes of fu for 15 minutes in a vegetable or kombu stock seasoned with natural soy sauce, and serve with a sprinkle of minced scallion. Add fu to hearty stews during the last 15 minutes of cooking to let it absorb the full flavor of the ingredients. When camping or traveling, add fu to soups and one-pot meals-it is the perfect lightweight, high-protein food.

Deep-fried fu enhances many dishes. Fu quickly fries to a crisp, light brown and doesn't tend to absorb oil. Do not soak fu before frying. Simply add a few rounds to moderately hot oil (about 340° F) - the oil should be hot enough so the fu sizzles when added, but it should not be smoking. Fry for about 1 minute, then flip and fry for another minute. Remove all pieces from one batch and place on wire racks or absorbent paper before adding more fu to the oil. When being used in soups or casseroles, deep-fried fu is usually dowsed in boiling water to remove excess oil. Dip the pieces of fried fu in boiling water or place a single layer in a colander, pour boiling water over the pieces, then turn them and dowse again. Allow the fu to drain for a minute before using.

Deep-fried fu is delicious simmered in a shoyu-seasoned broth. It also lends rich flavor to soups and stews and can be added to casseroles. Try cutting a couple rounds of deep-fried fu into bite-sized pieces and cooking it with hijiki and vegetables, or use as protein-rich croutons on soups such as onion or split pea. Lightly sprayed with shoyu or tossed with a little garlic powder or Italian seasonings right after frying, fu "croutons" add a tasty crunch to tossed salads.

Shonai fu is especially good in miso soup. It may be broken or cut into small pieces or strips and added dry to the soup. For an "instant" miso soup, simply bring a small piece of kombu, water, and several bite-sized pieces of shonai fu to a simmer. Remove the kombu, simmer the fu 1-2 minutes, then season to taste with your favorite miso. Garnish with slivered green onion, if desired.

For a quick and easy alternative to main course vegetable pies, use reconstituted shonai fu instead of a crust (see Squash "Pie" recipe). The texture will be different, but the results are just as delicious, and you'll be adding high-quality protein while avoiding the high fat content of most piecrusts.


Squash "Pie" with Sweet and Savory Onion Topping

Serves 6

3 sheets shonai fu


1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized chunks
pinch sea salt
½ teaspoon ginger juice


2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons white miso
3 tablespoons mirin
parsley or watercress sprigs for garnish

Soak the fu until thoroughly softened (5-10 minutes). Gently squeeze out excess water and line an 8-inch-square baking pan with the fu.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the squash and a small pinch of salt and sauté briefly. Add water to cover the bottom of the pan, lower heat, cover, and simmer until completely tender (about 20 minutes). Check occasionally and add a little more water if necessary. When the thickest pieces are easily pierced with a fork or skewer, add the ginger juice and toss. Mash until smooth with a potato masher or put through a food mill. The filling should have the consistency of mashed potatoes or be slightly wetter. If too dry, add a little water or rice "milk". If too wet, add 1 tablespoon arrowroot dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water. Spread the squash evenly over the fu.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions in sesame oil until translucent. Toss in a pinch of salt, cover, and cook 20 minutes over low heat. (Long cooking makes the onions very sweet.) Combine the miso and mirin, add the mixture to the onions, toss, and simmer 1 minute. Spread the onion topping over the squash.

Bake at 350° F for 25-30 minutes. Slice and serve garnished with sprigs of parsley or watercress.

Fu-Bean Soup

Serves 6-8

2 cups pinto beans or navy beans
6-inch piece kombu (optional)
9 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, diced
1 rib celery, sliced diagonally
8-10 pieces round fu
3 tablespoons barley miso

Soak beans for 3 hours or overnight, drain, and discard soaking water. Combine beans with the 9 cups water and, if desired, kombu in a pressure cooker. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then bring to pressure, lower heat, and cook for 50 to 60 minutes. Reduce pressure and uncover. (If pot-boiling, you will need to add more water occasionally. Cook for 2 to 3 hours, until beans are tender, then proceed.)

Break bay leaf into 2 to 3 pieces and add to beans along with salt, vegetables, and fu. (It is not necessary to presoak the fu in this recipe.) Simmer for 20 minutes more, then remove from heat. Dissolve the miso in 3 tablespoons water and add. Let rest briefly before serving. If desired, garnish with minced parsley or spring onions.

Clear Soup With Fu

Serves 6

Clear soups are simple and elegant. Though they may be served anytime, their lightness makes them especially appealing in warm weather or as an accompaniment to large, festive meals.

8 cups Shiitake dashi (Stock) - see Shiitake Recipes
6 pieces round fu
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons shoyu or tamari
1 cup green onions, cut into ½-inch lengths
3 large collard or kale leaves, or several spinach leaves

While preparing the stock, soak the fu in lukewarm water for 10 minutes, then gently squeeze out excess moisture between the palms of your hands. Add the fu to the simmering stock along with the salt, mirin, and shoyu or tamari. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then add the green onions and simmer for just 3-5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, parboil the greens in a separate pot of lightly salted water until just tender, then immediately drain and toss to cool quickly and prevent further cooking. Spinach becomes tender in just 30 seconds and collards take 5-7 minutes, so watch the greens carefully while they are cooking. If overcooked they will lose their color, and the visual effect of the soup will suffer. Slice the greens and set aside.

Carefully place 1 piece of fu in each bowl. Add a small mound of greens, then cover with the broth. Serve hot.

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