All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.

2014-03-16

Fu wheat gluten cakes

Chikuwafu: Common yakifu variation; chikuwa lit. means "bamboo ring"
The soft, boiled or steamed form (namafu) and dry, baked form (yakifu) are common types of fu wheat gluten cakes in Japan. There is also a deep-fried form (agefu). Many fu products are counted as local specialties, and over 100 types of fu (of different forms, production methods, etc.) are said to be found nationwide in Japan. The baked form is the one I have been familiar with since childhood. At my parents' home, small white fu pieces mostly appear in miso soup, tiny colorful ones in osumashi clear soup, and large donut shape fu in simmered dishes. I never had namafu until I grew up, and I am still not familiar with it.

Kurumafu: Large donut shape; kuruma literally means wheel
The main ingredient of fu is wheat flour. Fu is made by extracting gluten, a protein composite, by soaking flour in water (gluten is insoluble in water) and kneading it with additional wheat flour or glutinous rice flour. Along with soybeans, fu is a representative vegetable-derived protein source in Japanese food and especially in shojin ryori temple vegan food. Glutamic acid in gluten works as a neurotransmitter and is said to help revitalize brain functions, alleviate alcohol dependency and assist in healing ulcers. However, excessive intake reportedly leads to hypersensitivity. Many health benefits are also often mentioned for gluten peptide, including alleviating pain, lowering blood pressure, controlling stomach acid and increasing blood insulin level after meals, but clinical evidence of these effects seems limited for gluten peptide taken from food.

Mochifu: Relatively common variation in shape of yakifu
Fu was developed in China and introduced to Japan by at least the middle of the 14th century -- the oldest record of fu appeared in the 1352 Kagenki, a Horyuji Temple document (the first mention of udon noodles is also found in the same document). Some people say fu was introduced to Japan as early as the Nara Period in the 8th century. Regardless of timing, fu likely arrived in Japan as food for Buddhist monks. It was later adopted in meals and desserts served at tea parties, and gradually spread among average families.

Temarifu: Small colorful fu, resembling temari balls of silk thread
Protein-rich, low-fat fu is easy to digest and is useful when introducing babies to solid food and for seniors, as well as for people in poor physical condition. Despite its fluffy texture, fu is quite satisfying when eaten, and it is a popular choice for dieting food. In recent years, its beauty effect on skin has attracted attention in Japan. Fu is high in proline, an amino acid that stimulates epidermal cell growth, promotes collagen synthesis and moisturizes keratin. It also repairs damaged collagen. Sounds good, doesn't it? Proline content is 3800 mg/100 g baked fu, compared to 390 mg/100 g tofu and 350 mg/100 g yogurt. Fu itself weighs very little, and eating 100 g may not be easy. However, it can be ground and used as flour (very commonly done for dessert making) or crumbled and mixed into other ingredients, just as some people do with koyadofu freeze-dried tofu.

Namafu: 163 kcal/100 g; 60.0% water, 12.7% protein, 0.8% fat, 26.2% carbohydrate, 0.3% ash
Kurumafu: 387 kcal/100 g; 11.4% water, 30.2% protein, 3.4% fat, 54.2% carbohydrate, 0.87% ash
Yakifu (common forms): 385 kcal/100 g; 11.3% water, 28.5% protein, 2.7% fat, 56.9% carbohydrate, 0.6% ash


Recipes with fu

(Last updated: August 25, 2015)

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