"Fu", pure wheat gluten, originated as an ingredient of the Buddhist vegetarian kitchen (shojin-ryori), where it was served as a meat substitute. There are two types of Fu:
- Raw (nama-fu). Solid gluten is mixed with glutinous rice flour and steamed. Often a natural coloring is added, such as mugwort (yomogi). It is usually cut in interesting shapes, such as autumn leaves (momiji) - this is the type that is used in shojin-ryori. It is also used in traditional sweets (wagashi).
- Dry baked (yaki-fu). Baked into bread-like sticks. When these are cut, the yaki-fu looks like croutons. And that is how it is used, for example in miso-soup , sukiyaki or other one-pot dishes. This is the type available in supermarkets, for nama-fu one has to go to specialty shops (such as Fuka in the Nishiki Market in Kyoto).