History of Tofu - Page 1


A Special Report on The History of Traditional Non-Fermented Soyfoods

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and Soyfoods: 1100 B.C. to the 1980s

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

Copyright 2007 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

For updated and greatly expanded free information on this subject,
on our website go to "Historical Bibliographies and Sourcebooks on
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Tofu , also called "bean curd," is a fresh, cheese-like product made by curding soymilk; it is sold in ready-to-eat cakes. Yet in a broader sense, tofu refers to an entire family of foods including silken tofu, deep-fried tofu burgers, cutlets and pouches, firm and pressed tofu, grilled and smoked tofu, and frozen and dried-frozen tofu. Each of these types has its own unique history, as will be discussed at the end of this chapter.

Tofu has long been the most widely used soyfood in the world. In East Asia it has much the same importance that meat, milk, and cheese have for people in Western countries. Worldwide the tofu industry is very large. In 1982 it consisted of an estimated 245,000 manufacturers, including 30,000 in Japan, 200,000 in the People's Republic of China, 11,000 in Indonesia, 2,500 in Korea, 1,500 in Taiwan, and 225 in the Western world. The world's largest factories, located in Japan, make over 50 tonnes (metric tons) of tofu a day (15,000 tonnes a year).

Etymology . In China, the standard Mandarin term for tofu in the pinyin writing system is doufu (formerly written as tou-fu in the Wade-Giles system, but pronounced DOE-fu in both). In Cantonese it is tau-fu or dau-fu (both pronounced DAU-fu) and in Hokkien it is tau-hu (pronounced dau-hu). The earliest known mention of this word was in about AD 950, just before the Sung dynasty. Before that time, the food may have been referred to by poetical or other names such as li ch'i ("morning prayer") as will be discussed later.

Tofu is a Japanese word; the earliest known appearance was in 1182. During the 1400s, tofu developed a number of nicknames in Japan, such as shiro kabe or shira kabe , and later okabe .

Among the early English-language articles on this food, those which originated in Japan usually called it tofu (Kellner 1889; Inouye 1895; Trimble 1896; Langworthy 1897; Piper and Morse 1916; etc.), whereas those that originated in China generally called it "bean curd" (Bretschneider 1893; Rein 1899; Stuart 1911; etc.). However, the first (though only parenthetic) use of the term "bean curd" was by Kellner (1889) in Japan. The term "bean cheese" was also widely used in the early days (Langworthy 1897; Blasdale 1899; Ruhrah 1909; Makino 1918), as was "soy bean cheese" (Linder 1912; Morse 1918a). From 1910 to 1920 all these terms were used, with "tofu" and "bean curd" being the most popular. Gibbs and Agcaoili (1912) referred to it as "soja-bean curd," noting that it was also called "bean cake or bean cheese." Murakami (1916) called it "bean curd or bean jelly." Piper and Morse (1923), in their highly influential The Soybean , reflected the terminology confusion of the times nicely: they entitled their section "Tofu or Soybean Curd," referred to the food mostly as "bean curd" in this section, then switched and called it "soy cake" throughout their recipe section. Starting in the 1930s, "soy (or soybean) cheese" came back into popularity, especially among Seventh-day Adventist writers (Dittes 1929, 1935; Van Gundy 1936). By 1974 the four most widely used names, in descending order of popularity were "bean curd," "tofu," "soybean curd," and "soy cheese."

With publication of The Book of Tofu (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1975), the name quickly came to be standardized as the Japanese term "tofu" by manufacturers (on their labels), cookbook and food column writers, food scientists, and the soyfoods industry. There were various reasons that the Japanese term was chosen: (1) the authors had done most of their research and written their book in Japan. In their subsequent writings, including various tofu standards, they actively urged American tofu makers to adopt the Japanese term as their standard; (2) the majority of tofu shops in America in 1975 were Japanese-run and the Japanese-made tofu was the most widely available and most professionally marketed; (3) the terms "bean curd" and "soybean curd," were both unappealing and inaccurate, since tofu was made from soymilk curds just as cheese was made from dairy milk curds; (4) the term "soy cheese" was misleading since tofu is not ripened or fermented like most cheeses, but more important the term would eventually be contested and opposed by the dairy industry; and (5) "tofu" was a short, easy-to-spell, easy-to-remember "new" term which could be given a new image. By 1980 even Chinese manufacturers in America sold their product as "tofu;" only a few old-fashioned Chinese cookbook or food article writers held on to the awkward term "bean curd," which was rapidly approaching extinction. In the original (1975) edition of The Book of Tofu many of the special varieties of tofu ( kinugoshi , age , ganmo , etc.) had been given Japanese names. With the publication of the extensively revised Ballantine edition of The Book of Tofu , these were all Americanized (silken tofu, tofu pouches, tofu burgers, etc.). The standardization of the term "tofu" in America led some other Western countries to follow suit.

In French, tofu was first called fromage de pois (Champion 1866; Rein 1899; Bloch 1907). In his influential article on soyfoods in 1880, Paillieux referred to it in many ways: tou-fou , teou-fou , to-fu , fromage de daizu , and fromage de soja . Other early names were tofou (Trabut 1898), fromage de Haricots (Bloch 1906), fromage de soja (Li 1911; Beltzer 1911), fromage vegetal (Beltzer 1911), and petits fromages blancs de soja (Giraud-Gillet 1942). By 1982 the two most widely used names were le tofou and le fromage de soja , with the former being the most popular.

In German, tofu has generally been known by two names since earliest times: tofu and bohnenkaese (Ritter 1874; Langgaard 1878; Rein 1889; Kellner 1895; Loew 1906; Honcamp 1910). In 1914 Grimme first referred to it as sojakaese . By 1982 das tofu had become the most widely used term.

HISTORY OF TOFU IN CHINA

Origin and Early Development to 960 AD . Tofu almost certainly originated in China; its date of origin, however, is uncertain. The earliest existing document containing mention of the term "doufu" is the Ch'ing I Lu ( Seiiroku in Japanese), written by T'ao Ku in about 950 AD. There are at least four theories concerning the origin of tofu in China. The Liu An Theory states that tofu was developed by Liu An, King of Huai-nan, who lived in the southeast part of north China from 179-122 BC. The Accidental Coagulation Theory states that tofu was developed quite by accident, probably prior to AD 600, when someone, probably in northern China, seasoned a pureed soybean soup with unrefined sea salt containing natural nigari and noticed that curds formed. The Indian Import Theory states that tofu, or at least the basic method for its preparation, was imported from the dairying tribes or perhaps the Buddhist monks of India. The Mongolian Import Theory states that the basic method for making tofu was adapted from the cheese-making process learned from milk-drinking Mongolian tribes living along the northern border of China.

The first two theories suggest that the method of tofu coagulation originated in China. Since soybeans were considered one of the Five Sacred Grains ( wu ku ), they were probably dried like other grains before being cooked. If later boiled, they could either be added to the water whole, or first ground or mashed to make puree. If used in puree form, the result would be a thick soup or porridge that would have to be seasoned. If the cook added unrefined sea salt, which always contained the natural coagulant, nigari, curds would have formed. Curding might also have resulted if the soup were allowed to stand in a warm place until lactic acid-producing bacteria made enough lactic acid to form curds. Alternatively, the cook might have strained the soup to remove the fibrous soy pulp (okara); this would give the resulting curds a finer, more delicate texture. The next step, pressing, would have given the curds a firm texture, allowing it to be cut and extending its storage life. The final result would have been quite similar to today's tofu.

The third and fourth theories suggest that, since the Chinese did not generally raise cows or goats for milk, they were probably not familiar initially with the curding process. They may have learned it from either the Indians far to the southwest or from the nomadic Mongolian tribes just to the north, both of whom practiced dairying and made curds, cheeses, and fermented milk products. We will examine these two import theories as we come to them in their historical context.

While the last three of these four theories all seem reasonable, there is, unfortunately, relatively little evidence to support any of them, except the Mongolian Import Theory. Yet it is important to note that, as explained in Chapter 33, there is written evidence to show that soymilk existed in China by 82 AD, and may have existed several centuries before that time. Of the four theories, the Liu An Theory is by far the best known; unfortunately, it is probably the least likely to be true. Who was Liu An and what evidence do we have that he developed tofu?

Liu An was born of noble ancestry in northern China in 179 BC. The two main documents describing his life are the Historical Record ( Shih Chi , Chapter 118; Watson 1961) by the great historian Ssu-ma Ch'ien, who died about 85 BC, and the Han Shu (Jap. Kansho ; Chap. 44; Swann 1950), written about 90 AD by Pan Ku (AD 32-92). The Historical Record was published in about 90 BC; the Han Shu was derived in large part from it.

Liu An was the grandson of the founder of the Han dynasty. His paternal grandfather Liu Pang, generally known by his posthumous name Kao Tsu, was the powerful first emperor of that great dynasty; he died in 195 BC. Liu An's father was Li Wang Ch'en (Jap. Reiocho; 199-174 BC), an illegitimate son of Kao Tsu and the younger half brother of Wu Ti, one of the greatest of the Han emperors. Liu An's father led a tragic life. Born in prison, where his mother had committed suicide shortly after his birth??, Liu An's father was raised in Kao Tsu's palace, then at an early age made king ( wang ) of Huai-nan (a name that means "south of the Huai River"). The location of his kingdom is shown in Figure 8.1. In 195 BC, Kao Tsu died and in 179 BC, the same year Li An was born, Wu Ti became emperor of Han. A few years thereafter, Liu An's father, who was a very strong and haughty person, killed the man whom he felt was responsible for his mother's suicide in prison. Wu Ti, his gentle and understanding half brother, pardoned him. However in 174 BC Liu An's father attempted a revolt to overthrow the emperor Wu Ti, and Wu Ti had him banished to the West. He died, fasting insolently, on the way. Wu Ti grieved over the death of his half brother, so in 164 BC he divided his deceased brother's kingdom among his brother's three sons. Liu An, then Marquis of Fu-ling, became King of Huai-nan at age 15. Some recent writers (Morse 1931) give 164 BC as the year in which Liu An developed tofu.

Liu An soon made a fine name for himself. In the Historical Records , Ssu-ma Ch'ien says: "Liu An, king of Huai-nan, was by nature fond of reading books and playing the lute; he took no interest in shooting, hunting, or dashing about with dogs. He hoped to win the support of his people by doing secret favors for them and to achieve a reputation throughout the empire" (Watson 1961). Historically, Liu An is especially well known because of the Huai-nan Tzu (Tzu means "prince"), a 21-chapter work compiled under his patronage at his court by scholars he had summoned. Predominatly Taoist, this work on philosophy, morals, and statecraft, is also full of omen lore, cosmological speculation, and concepts from diverse other philosophical sources (Reischauer and Fairbank 1960; Needham 1954-86; Morgan 1933). Note that despite a statement by Adolph (1922) to the contrary, Liu An was not a "great friend of Buddhist monks," for Buddhism had not yet arrived in China. It is very important to note that the Huai-nan Tzu contains no reference to tofu. It does mention shu (beans or soybeans) in several places, giving instructions for planting them by the constellations, noting their season of growth, and adding that they grow well when fertilizied by mud from the river bottoms (Wu 1848). In the book there is also the phrase "a meat shop owner's bean soup," meaning that a person who sells meat, being unable to afford eating it, eats bean soup (Shinoda 1974). Thus, there is only faint evidence in the Huai-nan Tzu to connect Liu An with the development of tofu.

Liu An's nature was not all good. He began to bear a grudge against Wu Ti for his father's death. In 139 BC he journeyed to the Han capital and was praised by a friend there who said, "There is no one who has not heard of your reputation for benevolence and righteous conduct." A marquis also suggested that, since there was no clear heir to the emperor's throne, Liu An might be fit to receive it. In about 135 BC, Liu An began to plan a revolt to place himself on the throne after the emperor's death. A first attempt failed and Liu An was punished. When Wu Ti heard that a second revolt was being plotted, he sent men to arrest Liu An, but just before they arrived Liu An was warned and he committed suicide by cutting his own throat. It was October, 122 BC. At the beginning of the Later Han a legend appeared, which said that Liu An, rather than committing suicide, had been ushered up to heaven by the eight immortals of Taoist mythology.

In later ages, because of his fame and his dabbling in Taoism, alchemy, and related semi-magical practices, Liu An came to be regarded as the Father of Chemistry and the Taoist arts, in much the same way that all plant domestication was attributed to Shen Nung, and all Near-Eastern plant introductions were credited (incorrectly) to Chang Ch'ien. The strange, semi-mystical nature of Huai-nan culture strengthened the association. It is true that soybeans certainly existed in Liu An's time and soymilk may well have been known, so it is conceivable that he did know of or even invent tofu. However it is much more likely that he did not invent tofu, and that later generations merely ascribed its invention to him for various reasons: First, Chinese have traditionally liked to attribute the invention or development of good things to ancient characters of noble birth and/or high virtue. Second, a series of almost magical or alchemical transformations seem to take place in the processes of converting yellow or green soybeans into white soymilk, then the milk into cloudlike curds and pale yellow whey, and finally the delicate curds into firm cakes of tofu. And third, the Chinese have long considered tofu to be a food that promotes long life and good health--a good way to provide a rational explanation for Liu An's immortality. In fact, Sun Ta-ya (Jap. Sontaiga) of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) wrote that Liu An ate tofu, grew younger, eventually sprouted wings, and ascended to heaven, thus clearly linking the eating of tofu with immortality. Finally, since tofu later became a key protein source in the meatless diets of many Chinese (especially Buddhists) doing meditation or other spiritual practice, it might have been assumed that Liu An and his Taoist friends practice a similar diet, with tofu as their protein source.

The legend of Liu An as the person who first developed tofu and soymilk was slow to take root. There was no mention of tofu or soymilk in any works commissioned by Liu An, nor in any works about him for more than 1,000 years after his death. As we will see later, the linking of his name with the development of tofu did not start until the 12th century AD and it was not firmly established until 1578.

According to Li (1912) there is an allusion to tofu and soymilk in the rhymes of the great poet Sou of the 2nd century AD. He wrote, "The tender jade gets perfumed by the kettle" (the poet implies the resemblance of fresh tofu with jade) and "to cook the peas in milk and the grain in butter." While this connection remains speculative, Li noted that "One can see that the idea of vegetable milk does not date from yesterday."

The Mongolian Import Theory of tofu's origin has been proposed by Shinoda (1971), Japan's foremost authority on Chinese foods and their history. He notes that from the 4th to the 7th centuries AD, nomadic dairying tribes from northcentral Asia migrated southward into China, bringing with them their skills and technology for making cultured milk products such as yogurt and cheeselike foods. Although the Chinese had a highly developed civilization since long before the Christian era, they never developed the art of dairy farming (see Chap. 33) or, consequently, of preparing cultured milk products. Shinoda believed that when the Chinese were introduced to the Mongol's cultured milk product (resembling a yogurt or cheese), it was called rufu by the Mongols. In order to write this word in Chinese, the Chinese had to choose two characters which had the sounds of those two syllables. Fortunately, the character meaning "milk" was pronounced ru . To convey the sound fu the Chinese selected a character that ordinarily meant "spoiled." This choice probably reflected, in part, a certain contempt the Chinese felt for the Mongols, whom they considered to be inferior and uncivilized barbarians. But it may also have reflected the fact that fermentation and spoilage are closely related microbiological processes. The term rufu first appeared in written Chinese during the Sui dynasty (AD 581-618). Later the fu came to be used in many words relating to foods with a consistency like that of yogurt or soft cheese. Over the next few centuries, however, the Chinese grew quite fond of this Mongolian cultured milk product, and at about this time they probably began to adapt the imported cheese-making skills and technology to the curding of tofu to make soymilk, substituting various indigenous mineral salt- or acid coagulants for the rennet and bacterial cultures. Interestingly the character "spoiled" that they had initially used derogatorily for the Mongolian dairy cheese eventually came to be used in the name of their own soy cheese, which was called doufu; the term dou (bean or soybean) simply replaced the term ru (milk). Translated literally, then, tofu means "soybean spoiled." The Chinese insult had boomeranged, and it remains with them to this day. It is not known what the original tofu coagulants were, but today nigari ( lu , yanlu , or lushui ), a by-product of the process of refining sea salt and consisting primarily of magnesium chloride), is used in the northern and coastal areas. Calcium sulfate in the form of burned powdered gypsum ( shigao or shou shigao ) mined from the mountains, is used in the southern and inland areas. Soured whey ( swan giang ??), allowed to ferment naturally overnight) and vinegar are also reported to be used here and there in the south. Advocates of the imported dairy curds theories also note that three other mild-flavored foods, which are among the most popular delicacies in China, were also imported: swallows' nests ( yen-wo , made by swallows from edible seaweeds), shark fins ( yu-ch'ih ), and trepang (sea cucumbers, also called bêche-de-mer in French).

Shinoda believed that after the middle of the T'ang dynasty (i.e. after about AD 750) the Chinese, who still had no dairy animals, began to make tofu instead of dairy cheese.

Exhaustive searches of early Chinese literature by Shinoda (1968) and others have revealed that the world's earliest reference to the word doufu appears in the Ch'ing I Lu (Jap. Seiiroku ), written by T'ao Ku in about AD 950, just before the Sung dynasty. Note that this was more than 1,000 years after the supposed discovery of tofu by Liu An prior to 122 BC. The Ch'ing I Lu states: "In the daily market were several catties of doufu. People of the region called doufu the `vice mayor's mutton.'" It goes on to tell the story of a vice mayor named Jishu, who was so poor that he couldn't afford to buy mutton. Instead he bought a few pieces of tofu every day and ate them as a side dish with rice. Soon people in that area came to call tofu the "vice mayor's mutton." The story implies that tofu was widely consumed in those days and that it was less expensive than mutton. In fact, Shinoda (1971) believes that by the start of the Sung dynasty in 960 AD, tofu was popular all over China. After the publication of the Ch'ing I Lu , reference to tofu began to appear in many other works.

Sung Dynasty (960-1279) . During the Sung dynasty tofu became a common food of the lower classes. The first suggestion of some connection between Liu An and tofu appeared in the poems of Chu Hsi (1130-1200), the greatest scholar of the Sung. In Volume III he wrote a poem entitled "Doufu."

I have raised beans for many years, but the sprouts were rare.

Exhausted in the garden, the heart already rotten

Had I known Huai-nan's skill earlier,

I could have sat quietly, raking in the money.

At about the same time that Chu Hsi's poem was written, a most interesting story about tofu appeared in a book called the Tou-lu Tzu-jou Chuan (Jap. Toroshi ju-den ) written by Yang Wan-li (Jap. Yomanri). This account, which in part gave rise to the Indian Import Theory of tofu's origin, is allegorical, fanciful, and full of historical discrepancies, but it contains some very interesting historical implications. Because it includes numerous names and terms with double meanings, it is almost impossible to translate and even difficult for a Chinese to understand. The story takes place in the Ch'in dynasty (221-206 BC, the dynasty just before the one in which Liu An lived). The name of the hero is Tou Lu-shih (Jap. Toro-shi, or "Mr. Toro"). His first name is "Fu," and his nickname is Shiju. Tou Lu-shih is the name of a famous tribe that lived in northern China from the Three Kingdoms dynasty (220-265 BC) to the T'ang (618-907 AD). The hero's name is a play on words, since his last name combined with his first name (Toro-Fu) can mean "tofu" and his last name combined with the last character in his nickname (Toro-Ju) can mean "soymilk." In any case, Fu heard that Bodhidharma had come to China from the West. (Bodhidharma was a fierce-looking South Indian monk, who is said to have arrived in Henan (Honan) province, where he lived for 8 years and founded the Chinese Ch'an or Zen school. It is not certain that he was an historical character.)

Fu went to Bodhidharma and asked to become his disciple. Bodhidharma asked him, "Do you wish to become the heart-and-mind of the God of heaven, earth, and nature, rinse off all superficial knowledge, and follow me?" The story then says that Fu went home, washed his body, changed his clothes, and vowed to speak only the truth wholeheartedly to Bodhidharma. However this same sentence can also be interpreted to mean: "Wash soybeans well and make them into tofu." Bodhidharma then engaged Fu in Dharma combat, probing the depths of his heart-and-mind. He was very impressed with Fu's simple, honest, straightforward, and humble nature. Bodhidharma then told Fu that his own teacher had told him that there is a subtle and wonderful essence of flavor that remains in the curds when milk is curded, and that the flavor of Fu's being is this most delicious of all flavors, called daigomi ?? (The term means "Five Great Flavors" in Chinese; the same term was used to describe the curds the Buddha ate just before his enlightenment.) Bodhidharma recommended Fu to the Emperor Wu Ti (who reigned 140-85 BC), saying "Although this man Fu is from the lower classes, he is a man of integrity with a beautiful pure heart and excellent taste. His spirit could be compared with that of a food offering." According to the story, in about 116-111 BC (this date does not jibe with the dates Bodhidharma was supposed to have been in China), Fu went to the emperor with an application for work in which he said "I don't want to fight, I am happy to be wearing my robes of white, and I would like to work with these two men (whose names in Chinese mean "simmering in a pot" and "broiling"). Fu was given a high position. Soon the emperor retired to live a spiritual life of meditation, avoiding onions, garlic, wine, and women. He chose Fu as his attendant. Fu hesitated modestly then recommended instead his friend (whose name in Chinese means "cow"). The emperor replied, "I am sure he is beautiful but in the long run I'd grow tired of him; his talk is too sweet and fancy." There is then a play on words in which Fu intimates that he should be eaten with ginger. Finally the emperor fired Fu (people whose names mean "mutton" were very happy), so he took a simple pot, went alone into the mountains, and was not heard of again. Thus ends the story (Shinoda 1971??).

In this story, there is no mention of Liu An nor his supposed development of tofu. Shinoda (1971), who discusses this story in detail, points out that in early China tofu had another name, li ch'i , which is thought to have come from Western China (probably Sichuan) or to have been derived from Sanskrit. From the Han to the T'ang dynasties (AD 100-900) it probably referred to a Mongol cultured milk product, but during the Sung and Yuan dynasties it came to refer to tofu. (Adolph, in 1922, noted that li ch'i probably meant "morning prayer," perhaps because tofu is made in the early hours of morning and sold at daybreak.) Although it is not stated in the story that tofu came from the West or from India, the combination of the name li ch'i , the fact that Bodhidharma is said to have come from China (didn't he come from the West?), and Bodhidharma's story of the curds, all make this a possibility, albeit a slim one. Although the story is fictional, it may also suggest that tofu was used by Chinese Zen (Ch'an) monks at an early date in their vegetarian cookery.

In about 1200 an early tofu recipe appeared in the Sanka Senkyo (Cit?, ??char): "Pick a lotus flower, remove the center and calyx, then simmer it with tofu. The colors red and white combine to look like mist on a sunny day after snow. Season with red spices if desired."

In a work of the late Sung dynasty, there is a description of the menu served by a king to a prince; tofu is included.

Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) . Little is known of tofu during this period of Mongol rule. In a drama during the period there is a story of a sake maker who's sake turned into vinegar. He said, "If our luck is this bad, we should become tofu makers without complaint," implying a low rank for the latter profession. Chen Yun-tan (1327-1356) wrote an ode entitled "Doufu." (Cit??)

Sow the beans beneath South Mountain.

Frosty winds rattle the few pods.

Grinding lets the jade milk flow.

Boiling coagulates the clear spring.

In appearance, clear as winter radish.

The fragrance strong as the marrow of stone.

The taste is so good.

This food of jade, which no tradition has handed

down.

The references to jade allude to the precious white variety. The last line appears to be commenting on the lack of historical information concerning tofu's origin and development.

Ming Dynasty (1368-1662) . During the Ming, tofu became popular among the rich as well as the poor. Sometimes tofu was even made especially for the emperor. And one of the rulers of this period was said to have been the father of a tofu maker. The Ancestral Admonitions , issued in 1381, established various government bureaus staffed by palace eunuchs. The imperial wine bureau oversaw the production of tofu and soybean meal (what is it??) (Chang 1977 p. 212, Fritz Mote). In the late 14th century, Lo Ch'i in "The Origin of Things," noted that "Liu An made tofu." The idea was further elaborated on by Su Ping in about 1500. (2 cites??).

The best is king Huai-nan's skill.

You see the beauty when you peel.

Ground in mortar, and milk flows.

Boil in water and it turns to snow.

Soak in the jar and white curds show.

Cut with a knife, yet the jade is sound.

Who knows the delicacy of the curd?

Only the Buddhist and the Taoist.

In 1578 Li Shih-chen completed the Pen-ts'ao kang-mu , which was published in 1597. It became China's most authoritative and famous herbal and Materia Medica (see Chapt. 4). In the section on "Doufu" (XXV:7) he wrote: "The earliest mention of the method of making tofu is found in the Han dynasty Taoist work entitled Huai-nan-tzu , the writings of Liu An. According to this work, tofu can be made from black, yellow or white soybeans, peas or green beans. To make tofu, wash the beans and grind them with water, filter out the sediment and boil the liquid thoroughly in a vessel, adding nigari diluted in water, or a decoction of the leaves of the shan fan tree ( Symplocos prunifolia ), or soured whey from previous tofu. Pour this into a vat containing powdered gypsum; mix well. This mixture generally has a salty, bitterish, or sour acrid taste, and the substance which congeals on the surface should be removed and sun dried. This is called doufu pi (yuba) and is regarded as a delicacy" (Wu 1848, Stuart 1911). It was primarily because of this passage that most people in later ages came to think that Liu An was the first person to make tofu. Unfortunately the statements about tofu which Li says are found in the Huai-nan-tzu , simply are not. The Pen-ts'ao also contains a description for making rufu , by curding dairy milk with vinegar, straining off the whey, wrapping the curds in silk, pressing them with a stone, then adding salt and storing them in an earthenware crock.

Ching Dynasty (1662-1912) . By the Ching, tofu was a basic staple in China and probably the most popular soyfood. Firm tofu and fermented tofu may have been the two most popular types. In 1665 Navarrete was the first Westerner to mention tofu in China (Cummins 1962). Osbeck referred to it in 1751 (Osbeck 1757).

In 1795 Yuan Mei's classic recipe book, the Suei-yuan Hin-tan (Cit??), was published. Considered by many to be the Bible of Chinese cuisine, it contains frequent mention of tofu. At about this time the famous Oshiyu (Char; Chinese pron??) wrote in his book Zuisokui Inshokufu (Cit??, Char??, Chinese pron??, Date??): "Tofu makes the body cool, removes toxic substances from it, and cleans the intestines. It is especially effective in curing people who have dysentery or jaundice. It was also said that Setaigo (Who is she?? Char??, Chinese pron??, Date??) had 49 tofu forming boxes decorated with pearls in her palace kitchen. She ate tofu every day because she thought it was good for her beauty care (Lin 1975). Wu (1848) gave extensive information on the medicinal or therapeutic properties of tofu. "Generally speaking, during the hot months, when people are suffering from the heat and perspiration, care should be taken in eating tofu." If tofu is cooked with vinegar, it will help cure dysentery. In about 1905 China's most popular tofu recipe, Mabo Doufu, was developed by a lady in Sichuan province. Tofu increasingly permeated the language. A "tofu government official" was one who was honest, but a "tofu girl" referred to a poor girl who had left home. Finding fault with a person was compared to "finding a bone in your tofu" (Lin 1975).

Starting in 1866?? the first detailed descriptions of the Chinese tofu making process were given by Westerners, including Champion (1866), Champion and Lhote (1869), Simon (1880), and Rein (1889); these will be discussed under European History, later. In 1911 King reported that tofu makers are thrifty recyclers, using agricultural wastes such as straw, stems, and rice hulls for fuel to heat their caldrons.

Developments from 1912-1949 . In 1918 Shih described the process for making regular tofu, yuba, tofu curds, firm tofu, pressed tofu sheets, and deep-fried tofu. He repeated the rumor that tofu had been developed by Liu An.

Nutritional research on tofu in China started in 1920, when Adolph and Kiang published a nutritional analysis of tofu. Additional nutritional research on tofu was done by Embrey and Wang (1921), Adolph (1926), Pian (1930), (Adolph and Chen (1932), Adolph and Kao (1932), and Cheng, Li, and Lan (1941) as detailed in Chapter 27. In 1922, Adolph, a chemistry professor at various Chinese universities, wrote a long and very interesting essay on tofu in China. He described the various tofu coagulants (gypsum was the most widely used, but only nigari was used in some areas), and noted that "Almost every town has at least one bean curd shop . . . Cakes of bean curd may be salted and dried, yielding a product which resembles our cream cheese . . . Bean curd is a real delicacy if carefully made and well cooked. Chinese who are connoisseurs on the subject assert that when so prepared it has the taste of pig's brains. Americans and Europeans eating Chinese food often eat carefully prepared bean curd thinking it is pork. With sugar it produces a dish like custard. Prepared with salt it resembles scrambled eggs . . . Some bird dealers employ tofu as the sole food for infant birds (stolen from their nests) . . . The true Buddhist monk, who from birth is consecrated to the priesthood, is carried through the period of childhood growth on a rather heavy diet of bean curd . . . A common saying in some parts of China terms `bean milk the poor man's milk, and bean curd the poor man's meat.'" Embrey and Wang (1921) noted that the Chinese made a type of tofu, called ma doufu , out of mung beans. Other writers of the period mentioned various types of tofu made from other types of beans. Horvath (1927), doing soyfoods research in Beijing, wrote a long chapter on tofu, but much of his information was drawn from Adolph 1922. He mentioned that tofu was called "the meat without bones," (first time??) gave a nutritional analysis of nine types of tofu including smoked tofu from Beijing, and noted that "In Peking (Beijing) at the Kai Cheng Bean Products Company, various preparations manufactured from tofu may be purchased, such as different kinds of soybean meat, soybean sausages, etc. The company has established a restaurant in Peking (86 Morrison St.) where one can get a Chinese dinner of numerous dishes prepared mostly from soybean products (chicken meat, pork, ham and beef, manufactured from tofu)." In 1937 Hommel, an American who lived in China for 7 years between 1921 and 1930, gave a detailed description of tofu and tofu making in China, with many fine photos from Zhejiang (Chekiang) and Jiangxi (Kiangsi). He reported that "It is usually a household manufacture, the people making it for their own consumption." Li (1948) also described the tofu-making process.

 

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