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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Turbulent History of Tasty Tofu

In short, Tofu comes from China. It was first produced there over 2000 years ago, as we can see from a stone mural depicting a kitchen scene during the period 25-220AD. Su Ping also wrote an "Ode to Tofu" much later in AD1500 which is our earliest written reference to Tofu.
Some mistakenly believe that Tofu comes from Japan. While this may be true of the word Tofu itself (in Chinese, they call in Dofu), the substance was brought back to Japan from China by Kento priests who were visiting China as practicing Buddhists. It was great for their vegetarian diet because of the high protein content - much the same reason we eat it today. Tofu gradually became popular among the ruling nobility and samurai classes, and then among normal people by the Edo period of 1603-1867.
Tofu is thought to have come to the west via Spanish explorer named Domingo Fernandez de Navarette who described it in his book "A Collection of Voyages and Travels". We see it first in English language when Navarette's book was translated into English in 1704. Tofu was first produced non-commercially in France in 1880 by Pallieux. Hirata & Co produced it in San Fransisco in 1895, so this may be the origin in America. The first wide-scale commercial production in America was in 1929 when T.A Van Gundy started his La Sierra Industries in California.
What is tofu anyway?! Technically speaking, it's coagulated bean curd. It's made by soaking, grinding and boiling soybeans to make soymilk; then coagulating the proteins and oil contained within the soymilk. The remainder is pressed, and tofu is produced. It basically has no taste, but is high in protein and Iron content, as well as sometimes calcium depending on the coagulent used to produce it. Very few people eat Tofu on it's own - the simplest way to eat it is with soy sauce drizzled over it, common in both Japan and China.
A variety of Tofu by-products also exist that you might not know about. In Japan, "Tofu skin' is produced by boiling soy milk and taking the skin layer that develops on top. The Tofu residue, sometimes known as Soy pulp, is mostly used as animal feed in Asian countries, but in the west is more commonly found inside vegetarian burgers! Lovely!
Well, I bet that put you in the mood for a tasty vegetarian recipe! They're not all about Tofu, you know - but this is a wide variety of Tofu dishes at this Vegetarian Recipes [] collection.

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