History of Tofu
Tofu is thought to have originated in China some 2,000 years ago. Some believe it was first made in the second century B.C. and others believe it was first made during the Tofu era (618~907).
According to one Chinese legend, tofu was invented when a cook decided to experiment by flavoring a batch of cooked soybeans with the compound nagari. Instead of flavored soybeans, he wound up with bean curd. Nagari is frequently used in the production of tofu today. From China, tofu was introduced into Korea, and reached Japan in the eight century A.D.
Initially, tofu was eaten as part of a vegetarian diet for priests for added protein in the same way as miso. Tofu gradually became popular among the nobility and the samurai class. By the Muromachi era, it was well known throughout Japan.
During the Edo era (1603~1867), tofu became popular among ordinary citizens.
With an influx of Asian immigrants to America came the introduction of tofu to the United States. Today tofu is used world wide for culinary and medicinal purposes and is especially popular in the west as a meat substitute creating tasty vegetarian dishes.
Preparation & Nutrition
Tofu can be prepared in many creative ways. It can be baked, broiled, fried, barbequed, boiled or steamed. It can be used in any curry dish or fried rice. Nutritionally, it is the king of all proteins, because it has absolutely no cholesterol and is low in sodium.. It is very low in fat and yet is high in energy boosting protein. Tofu is an excellent source of absorbable calcium and is high in vitamins and minerals. Tofu assists in lowering cholesterol levels. Lecithin and linoleic acid are two substances found in tofu which break down cholesterol and fat deposits in the blood.
How Tofu is Processed
Tofu is made by curdling fresh hot soymilk with a coagulant. Traditionally, the curdling agent used to make tofu is nigari, a substance found in sea water, or calcium sulfate, which is a naturally occurring mineral. In today's manufacture of tofu, soybeans are soaked in water and then ground to a puree with a small amount of water. This is then boiled and strained to produce soy milk which is in turn simmered for a short time before a coagulant is added, causing it to separate into curds and whey. The curds are then pressed into moulds.