Fu: A Traditional Japanese Vegetarian Ingredient

Kansai Food Vegetarian 2020.02.26
With 300 years of experience in Fu making, Hanbey-fu taught us a lot about fu in Japanese Buddhist cuisine and tea ceremony cuisine.

Have you ever tried a Japanese ingredient called "Fu"?

Fu or sometimes called Ofu【お麩:おふ】is a traditional ingredient used in some Japanese cuisine. 
Traditionally used in foods prepared for the monks at temples as Shojinryori【精進料理:しょうじんりょうり】, or otherwise in Chakaiseki【茶懐石:ちゃかいせき】.

This ingredient is very versatile, it can be used as a substitute for the main dish, or play a part of the main dish, used in side dishes, in soups and hot pot dishes, or even a dessert dish. 

It is traditionally made purely of wheat gluten and thus is used in many traditional Japanese vegan/ vegetarian cuisines.

Hanbey Fu

On our last visit to Kyoto, we had a chance to visit a shop that specialised in Fu making.
The shop was named after the founder which his name was "Hanbei Tamaki" hence, Hanbey-Fu【半兵衛麩:はんべえふ】.
They have been in the fu making business for over 300 years now and Hanbey originally was an imperial chef, in which he learnt how to make fu.
  • Cute exterior of the shop with seasonal plants welcoming guests.
  • Nice quiet interior.
  • Products like this were made to imitate the texture and flavours of meat.
  • Some products like these were made to add colour to the dishes with its seasonal looks.

What is different about Hanbey-Fu

Over several generations, the company has been a long time supplier for many temples and restaurants around Kyoto.
They have been working on perfecting the fu making skills and finding ways to improve their product quality. Whenever they find anything new in the market or the field of industry, they would study it and experiment with it over and over.
That's how they come up with ideas like this product here called "Soup de Ofu" and other product ranges.

But that's not it!

Here at Hanbey-fu, they have a bento box gallery on the second floor of this building, where guests are welcome to explore old style lunch boxes that once were owned by wealthy families along history.
  • Starting with simple ones like this.
  • And dainty ones like this set here.
  • Up to more luxurious ones like this set here covered in Urushi (Japanese lacquer) and gold leaf.
If you have some time in Kyoto and would like to explore more about Japanese vegan ingredients and find out the history of bento boxes, here is the place to visit.

Hanbey-fu is close to the Kiyomizu-Gojo station of Keihan main train line, southeast of the Gojo-Ohashi bridge (map).
Official website.
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