Englebert Kaempfer - 1651-1716 - Part 2

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and Soyfoods: 1100 B.C. to the 1980s

©Copyright 2004 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

Kaempfer Part 1 | 2

Amoenitatum Exoticarum, 

Amoenitatum Exoticarum. Kaempfer's first major work, Amoenitatum Exoticarum, Politico-Physico-Medicarum (often rendered in English as Amoenitates Exoticae or Exotic Novelties), written in Latin, was published in Lemgo in 1712, some 16 years after his homecoming. The fifth fascicle of his 900-page work, which contained a description of the plants of Japan, included a full-page drawing by Kaempfer of a soybean plant (Fig. ??.1), plus a description of the plant, and descriptions of how to make miso and shoyu (he called it sooju), both partially inaccurate. Kaempfer referred to the soybean as Daidsu (the actual Japanese spelling is daizu; he also wrote the Chinese character for the word) or as mame, which is a general term for all types of beans. He later mentioned the black soybean under the names of Siuku (meaning uncertain) or Kuro Mame ("black beans," which he also referred to as Phaseolus Daidsu). He described it as a dwarf variety with medicinal properties; three or four, reduced to a powder, are administered in potions to asthmatics. Here is an exact translation from Latin of what Kaempfer wrote on pages 837-840 about soybeans and soyfoods (Bening 1951):

Daidsu, as people and scientists call it, is also called "mame" for its excellence. An upright bean, a leguminous plant like lupine, with whitish fruit somewhat larger than peas.

A bean, similar to the aforementioned, but four feet high and with more branches and leaves, with upright stem, irregular branches and with hairs. It stretches forth leaves like the garden bean, but with more pubescence on the under side of the leaf. In the month of August it bears on pedicels in the axil of the leaves several bluish white flowers with a large standard, which resemble those of lentils. These tiny blossoms are followed by pods measuring 1 1/2 inches long, which are covered with heavy hairs (pubescence) resembling those of the yellow lupine. The pods contain two, and more rarely three seeds, similar to garden peas in size, shape and taste, but laterally somewhat compressed, and with a chestnut brown eye (hilum).

This legume supplies to the Japanese kitchen vital elements, for they make from it the following:

1. A kind of pap that they call miso, which is added to dishes instead of butter. Butter is unknown under this strip of heaven.

2. And then the famous so-called shoyu, a sauce which is poured over if not all dishes, at least over all cooked and fried meals.

I add the processing methods for both.

To produce miso, one takes one measure of mame or phaseolus daidsu which is cooked with water for a long time and then braved or ground and mixed into a soft pap. Under continued braying, common salt is added, in summer four parts, in winter three. If less salt is added, one gets the product quicker, but shelf life is shorter. After reducing has been repeated, one mixes the pap with koos or dehulled rice, and mixes the total by repeated braying. This rice in preparation has been boiled a little in the steam of unsalted water. One lets the mixture cool down and remain in a warm cellar one or two days and nights to ripen.

This mixture, which has the texture of a pap or spread, is put into a bowl that recently contained the popular sacki, a rice wine. Before using, one lets the bowl stand one or two months untouched.

Koos lends to the product an agreeable taste, and its production requires, like that of the Germans' "polenta," the experienced hand of the master. Those therefore who make it are held in high esteem, and they sell it ready made.

To make shoyu one uses the same beans just as thoroughly cooked. And "muggi," which is barley or wheat fermented (with wheat the product becomes darker) which has been coarsely ground. One mixes equal units with ordinary salt, or only one unit with half of it.

The beans are blended with the prepared grain, and one lets the mixture stand in a warm place under cover a day and a night for fermentation. Then the salt is added, one stirs the mass and mixes with water, normally two units to half. When this has been done, the well covered mass is stirred once (better two or three times) the next day and each subsequent day by means of an oven rake. This work is continued for two or three months, then the mass compressed and filtered and the liquid preserved in wooden containers. The older it becomes, the clearer and better it will be. The squeezed mass is again filled up with water and newly stirred and some days after treatment pressed again.

It seems likely that Kaempfer learned of these processes from his servant-friend rather than witnessing them himself, or he may have also read of them in a book. It is interesting to note that he made no mention of tofu, Japan's most widely used soyfood. But he did very clearly, for the first time, establish the connection between soybeans and soyfoods.

Only four years after the publication of his book, on 2 November 1716, Kaempfer died of the colic near his home town.

Kaempfer's History of Japan. Kaempfer's second great book, The History of Japan, was translated from German into English after Kaempfer's death by a Swiss, J.G. Scheuchzer, and published in London in 1727, Hans Sloane, imprimatur. This book contains a detailed story of Kaempfer's life. In the chapter on the plans of Japan, written in 1690, there is a section about soybeans which reads:

Daidsu, that is, Daidbeans, is a certain sort of Beans, about the bigness of Turkish Pease, growing after the manner of Lupins. They are next to the Rice in use and esteem. Of the meal of these beans is made what they call Midsu (miso), a mealy Pap, which they dress their Victuals withal, as we do with Butter. What they call Soeju (shoyu), is also made of it, which is a sort of an Embamma, as they call it, which they eat at meals to get a good Stomach. This Soeju is imported by the Dutch and brought even into Holland. I have described their way of making it in my Amoenitates Exoticae. p. 839. where the Plant it self bearing these Beans is figur'd and describ'd.

Kaempfer's diaries, drawings (including his drawing of the soybean), and manuscripts are now carefully preserved among the rare materials of the British Museum in London. A copy of the first edition of his Amoenitatum Exoticarum and other person items are preserved in the Englebert Kaempfer Museum in Lemgo, Germany. Many of his botanical specimens are still preserved in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, England.

Part 2
Kaempfer Part 1 | 2