For a small country, it seems to me that Japan has an amazing variety of regional cuisine. Here in Ishikawa, we’re blessed with ample seafood, and the cold winters and hot, humid summers lend themselves particularly well to fermentation; as a result, many of our regional specialties involve fermented seafood which, I think, is something of an aquired taste that I have yet to aquire. If you, like me, are looking to try something else that’s popular with the locals, why not give fu (麩) a try?
Fu is the name used to describe a number of preparations of wheat gluten (essentially, what’s left over if you wash all the startch out of wheat flour.) Some kinds, including sudare-bu （すだれ麩 – a type of fu eaten almost excuslively in Ishikawa), are very dense and hard, and require soaking before they are edible. Other kinds, such as kuruma-fu （車麩 – a popular ingredient in home cooking in Hokuriku） are leavened with baking powder. These are light, brittle, and extremely absorbent. The soak up sauce like nobody’s business, and make a satisfying (and protein-rich) meat subsitute in stir fry and curry.
I bought a package of kuruma fu earier this week, and have been having a lot of fun cooking with it. Would you like to give it a try? Check out Hokuriku Expat Kitchen this week for recipes for Fu Donburi and Cold Miso Soup (the latter is even seasonal!) Happy cooking!