Mix together one part doctorate in cancer biology, one part high-tech strategist and two parts foodie, and, serendipitously, you get tofu misozuke, an ancient Japanese fermented tofu which is traditionally enjoyed in small tastes with a glass of sake.
The husband and wife team of Dang Vu and Oanh Nguyen developed their passion for food from the traditional dishes prepared by their families. Their company, Rau Om, is named for an herb that grows in Southeast Asian rice paddies and is used in their Vietnamese cuisine.
The bay area couple stumbled upon this ancient delicacy and brought it to life through research, trial and error, and dogged determination.
A few years ago, when lost in Tokyo, they happened into a sake bar and fell in love with this tofu; as creamy as well-ripened brie, and as salty as blue cheese. Stateside it was nowhere to be found, and they learned that this product of the Fukuoa District on the southern island of Kyoshu was scarce even in Japan.
They came across an 18th century recipe which needed translation into modern Japanese, and then English. On the web, they found two scientific papers, written by researchers at Fukuoka Women's University, and University of Tokyo, that explained the microbiology of the fermentation process, which is the trickiest to master.
Tofu is made from the milk of dried and soaked soybeans, to which a coagulating agent is added. Miso is made by fermenting grain and or rice with salt and fungus. When a block of tofu is covered with miso, a protease from the fungus causes changes in the flavor and structure of the tofu.
Rau Om's tofu misozuke is now available in the cheese section at New Leaf Markets. | KP
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