Guilin Fermented Bean Curd: “Best Cuisine” in Supporting Role
Publication time：2021-07-01 16:35:05
（By Tang Huiqun）When it comes to Guilin, what spring to your mind might be the gorgeous landscape, or luscious rice noodles. But, there is another specialty in Guilin that enjoys long history and is known as one of the “three treasures in Guilin”—— Guilin fermented bean curd. Visually, with a creamy yellow coat, it drenches in an oily chili sauce. It smells savory mingled with a faint fragrance of chili and garlic, making it mouth-watering. What is so magical about this simple cube of tofu?
Story of coincidence about fermented tofu
It is said that Guilin fermented tofu has been famous as far back as Song Dynasty, and it was made by accident. In a village of Guilin, there was a family who made tofu for a living. One day, they overheard that the famous songstress Liu Sanjie was going to have a folk song show in downtown. The whole family was folk song fanatic, so they put aside the tofu they had just made and left for Liu sanjie’s tour. Few days later they came back and found the tofu rotten. The daughters felt pity for it and one of whom sprinkled some salt and Baijiu (a Chinese liquor) upon this tofu and stored them in an earthen jar in case it could be reused.
Few months later, famine hit that village, people suffered from starvation and deprivation. At this very hard time, it occurred to the “tofu” family that they have jars of pickled tofu, so they intended to have a try of it. Surprisingly, once they open the jar, they were embraced by the aroma of fermented tofu and it tasted so good. From then on they started to sell the Guilin fermented tofu, and the new cuisine enlivened Guilin. Since then, people in Guilin learned this recipe and started making it for eating or selling. It was not until the Qing Dynasty that the Guilin fermented tofu was presented to the emperor as a tribute every year. At that time, the emperor was sick and everything seemed tasteless, no food or medicine can cure his illness until a Guilin official offered him the Guilin fermented tofu, and it saved the emperor from having no appetite.
Development of process
In the past, food technology was not developed, and the process of making pickled tofu was quite simple. A nice weather is the key to making a healthy and delicious one. As humid weather might affect the storage and taste of the fermented tofu, people would choose to make the specialty in dry days, mostly in winter. Thanks to advanced technology in modern factories, Guilin fermented tofu can be produced all year round. However, food safety requires a clean environment and intricate machine. The unique flavor of the fermented tofu is formed during fermentation and storage, so apart from rigor environment, good ingredients like soybean or tofu are essential. First, people use high-quality soybeans to make tofu. Then they cut them into cubes, and put them into a round and small-mouthed large-bellied jar which must be dry and moisture-free. Next step is to mix them with Baijiu, salt and other spices and marinate them for 1 or 2 days. After that, workers will pour the best liquor into the jar and make sure all the tofu are soaked. The final step is to store them in a cool, dry place for about 4 to 6 months, then it will be ready to serve.
The process of making spices is not easy either. First is to make chili paste by removing the stem of the raw chili and placing it in a large wooden barrel with salt, black bean and peeled garlic, then mash these ingredients to gain a special mixed flavor. Second, before pouring the chili sauce into a small jar, put in some soy sauce and sesame oil first. Finally, marinate the tofu with all the ingredients.
Ways to enjoy
Guilin fermented tofu can be divided into two categories: pepper flavored and spiced, both can enhance appetite and help with digestion because of its sour and refreshing taste. Until now it is widely known in almost every Chinese family, and it sells well at home and abroad and is often exported to South Asia and Japan. Nowadays, Guilin fermented tofu is usually sold in jars. Similar to the famous chili sauce Lao Gan Ma, it can be the side-dish of a simple meal or the seasonings of a vast array of delicacies.
Guilin fermented tofu can be enjoyed in many different ways. Sometimes local people eat it with porridge and steamed buns as a dip. Sometimes it is used as a condiment to enhance the freshness and aroma of cuisine so that the dishes such as taro braised pork, roasted suckling pig, and steamed chicken will taste less greasy. Additionally, it can be used as a condiment for salad dishes, including tofu salad and preserved eggs. The magic of tofu entails their savory aroma and mouth-watering looks. Yuanmu, a gourmet of the Qing dynasty, hailed the Guilin fermented tofu as “the best fermented tofu in China”.
1. Although you might be tricked by the unique and savory taste of Guilin fermented tofu, it is actually a kind of preserved food, so remember never to eat too much while enjoying the preserved food.
2. In Chinese cuisine, when fermented tofu is used as a seasoning, it is usually added with other spices after the food is cooked to create a better taste.
3. The fermented tofu should be stored in a dry and cool place in an airtight container . The chopsticks used to pick the fermented tofu must be dry and clean to avoid contamination by other bacteria. It is best to store it in the refrigerator once opened.
4. Fermented tofu can be enjoyed with porridge as a side-dish. However, being high in salt, it should be consumed by no more than one piece per day and the young and children should have even less.
Source: China-ASEAN Panorama