History of Tofu - Page 2

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and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

©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, Californi

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People's Republic of China (1949 to 1980s) . Since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, information on tofu has unfortunately dropped to a trickle. No statistics are available on total or per capita production and consumption, nor on the number of tofu manufacturers. It is often said that there is a tofu shop in almost every village in China. If there were as many tofu shops in China per 1,000 people as there are in Japan (where there is one shop for every 4,000 people), there would be 250,000 tofu shops in mainland China. A soybean specialist with the State Farm Bureau estimated in 1983 that there were 200,000 tofu shops in China (Shurtleff 1983).

There are more varieties of tofu in China by far than in any other country. A list, with characters and names in pinyin is given on page ??. Detailed descriptions of each of these types is given in The Book of Tofu (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1975) and by H.L. Wang (1977, 1979), while brief descriptions have been given by Harris (1949), Lin (1976), and Guo (1983). In south China tofu is softer than it is in the north. In all parts of China, calcium sulfate, a mineral mined from the earth, is the most widely used tofu coagulant, although natural nigari or a mixture of the two is used in some coastal regions and in the north, where much of the salt is refined. Nigari makes a firm tofu, calcium sulfate a softer tofu. Because refrigeration has never been widely used in China, at least four techniques have been developed to extend the storage life of fresh tofu: pressing it firmly to reduce the moisture content; deep-frying it; simmering it (either regular, firm, or deep-fried tofu) in soy sauce and/or a spice mixture (especially turmeric or chili powder) to use the salt or spices as an antibacterial agent; or fermenting it preserved in an alcohol and/or salt solution. During the warm months, tofu prepared in these ways is much more widely available than fresh white tofu. Virtually none of these tofu types are found in Japan and only the firm cakes of fresh tofu are found in the West. The technique of preserving tofu by freezing and then drying it is, oddly, not used in China, although tofu is frozen, then thawed before cooking it. Pressed tofu sheets, which resemble pieces of thick canvas, made by pressing tofu curds in cloth envelopes under great pressure, are unique to China. Cut into squares, they may be used as a wrapper for other ingredients, as in spring rolls; run through a noodle cutter, they become protein-rich noodles; sprinkled with a little sodium carbonate then rolled tightly and simmered in a seasoned liquid, they become a meat analog, called "vegetarian chicken" ( suji ).

Two very close relatives of tofu in China are smooth soymilk curds ( doufu nao , literally "tofu brains") and soymilk curds-in-whey ( doufu hua , literally "tofu flowers"); both Chinese names refer to the products' texture. These are prepared by adding less than the regular amount of coagulant to hot soymilk in a large pot. The resulting curds (which are not pressed to make cakes of tofu) are widely served for breakfast, sometimes from the carts of sidewalk vendors. Some are served with sweetened with sugar, others are seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, pickled vegetables, dried shrimp, or even chopped meat (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1975; Wang 1976).

Various Chinese who left China during the 1940s or 1950s and returned recently all agree that tofu is less widely available now in China than before the revolution, and many report that the quality has fallen. Tofu is rationed throughout China, usually on the Grain Coupon. It is not known when rationing of tofu in China started, but it had begun in north China by 1972 (Hsu and Hsu 1977). Tofu is most widely eaten on holidays. Some people resort to use of the "back door," to get around the rationing restrictions to get their tofu (Butterfield 1982). Others report seeing housewives get into a fistfight waiting in line for a short supply of tofu. A large supply of tofu in city markets typically sells out quickly and generates a long line of those waiting to buy it. An American studying in Nanjing wrote: "We ate quite a bit of doufu, which in Nanjing could be purchased by Chinese from two sources. First, there was government distribution. This was inexpensive, varied in quality, and was rationed. One could also buy it from individual sellers, who sold it from wooden wheelbarrows between 5:00 and 6:30 in the morning. The quality was good and you could buy whatever was available (no rationing), but it was somewhat higher in price." In China, even fresh tofu is typically not sold immersed in water, as it is in Japan and the West. It is usually made, sold, and eaten all in the same day. While fresh tofu has always been less available during the warm months than during the cold for lack of refrigeration, the move from decentralized to centralized state-controlled markets has compounded the problem. The major reason for the decline in tofu quality is reported by various Chinese to be caused by the extensive use of defatted soybean cake (left over after the oil is extracted from soybeans) instead of whole soybeans as the major ingredient. Tofu made from whole soybeans in some areas is available only in special guest houses and restaurants.

In 1983 Shurtleff reported on the availability of different types of tofu during the month of June in four provinces. In Guangzhou (Canton), in the far south, not much tofu was seen in the markets. The fresh tofu was sold on wooden boards in 18-inch square pallets, each 2 inches thick. There were some deep-fried tofu cubes and pressed tofu squares simmered in soy sauce, all sold in small stalls. In Zhengzhou (Henan province) there was a large indoor market in a cement building with a great deal of tofu, especially fresh tofu. Most was soft tofu (like Japanese tofu) on wooden boards in 18-inch -square pallets, 4-5 inches thick. Pieces were cut with a knife, weighed in a hand-held balance, then put into a bag brought by the customer. There were also tan pressed tofu squares ( doufu gan ), pressed tofu sheets ( quian zhang ), tofu rolls ( gan doufu juan ) each 3 inches in diameter and 8 inches long, and whole soy flour sold as "tofu flour" ( doufu fen ) sold in plastic bags to make tofu or soymilk. To buy tofu, one presented a ration ticket and paid 0.10 yuan ($0.05) for 500 gm. In Beijing (Peking) no fresh tofu was seen during six visits in both the morning and afternoon to the city's four largest markets. At the "Bean products" shop in each market a line of 15-20 people was typically waiting to buy small amounts of deep-fried tofu cubes, pressed tofu noodles, scraps of firm tofu simmered in soy sauce, finger-sized pieces of deep-fried tofu (1.5 by 1.5 by 5 inches) simmered in soy sauce, and rolled tofu sheets. In the markets at Harbin (Heilongjiang province, China's leading soybean producing province) no tofu was seen, but people said it was sold during the cold months. One street vendor was seen selling soymilk curds (and also soymilk) over which was poured a sweet brown sauce, diced red chilies, and minced greens. This was served with deep-fried wheat crullers ( yu tiao ).

Tofu, like grains, remains one of China's most democratic foods. What is available is consumed by people from all walks of life and all ages. It serves as a very important source of both protein and calcium; the Chinese diet is particularly low in the latter mineral. In south China the typical meal is rice, tofu, and cabbage. In fact Buwei Yang CHAO, in her charming How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (1963) notes that for most Chinese, tofu and cabbage connote "Home Sweet Home." At New Year's, many north Chinese households make their own tofu (Hsu and Hsu 1977). Tofu is served in a multitude of ways in China. In fact in 1982 Mr. Zhang, a cook from Jiangxi wrote Four Hundred Tofu Dishes , a 280-page book in Chinese. Popular recipe styles include fresh (with soy sauce, sesame oil, minced green onion, and hot chili oil), simmered in north China's famous winter firepots ( hou kuo ), stir fried, stuffed and steamed, stewed in a Sichuan earthenware pot with vegetables, seafoods, and meats, or as Mabo Doufu. The latter preparation of tofu, ground pork or beef, and chili sauce, originated in Sichuan province in recent times (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1975; H.L. Wang 1976).

Unlike Japan, China has hardly begun to modernize its traditional tofu industry, including the introduction of modern concepts of sanitation and simple, middle-level technology. A few Chinese companies, however have imported large state-of-the-art tofu systems from Japanese equipment manufacturers. In 1981 Takai Tofu and Soymilk Company in Japan began to sell automated systems in Harbin (MinLight run) and other places, and Neatland Company in Hong Kong sold two modern Sato Shoji tofu lines to Guangdong for US$450,000. Each line makes 2 tonnes of tofu an hour. China is actively interested in learning tofu modernization from Japan. One original Chinese development is a medium sized tofu plant in Shanghai, China's largest and most modern city, which by mid-1980 was making pressed tofu sheets by a continuous process, on a 100-foot-long conveyor. Many foreign tourists were shown this plant. Unfortunately, no books on tofu production are known to have been written in China.


Introduction and Early Development (to 1185) . Although the word "tofu" first appeared in a Japanese document in AD 1182, no one knows when the first tofu was actually made in Japan. It is almost certain that the tofu-making technique was introduced to Japan from China, and it was probably transmitted either by Japanese Buddhist monks who visited China or by Chinese Buddhists who went to teach in Japan. Given that there is no known mention of tofu in China prior to AD 950 (although tofu may well have been known in China at that time) and that many Buddhists went back and forth between the two countries from the 8th to the 12th centuries, it is generally thought that tofu was introduced to Japan sometime between AD 900 and AD 1100 (Shinoda 1971; Abe 1974; Ichiyama 1968). It is known from the Kojiki and Nihonshoki that soybeans existed in Japan by the early 700s, and archaeological evidence suggests an introduction more than 500 years?? before that. There is fairly good evidence that tofu was not known or well known in Japan during the 900s since there is no mention of it in a number of books that describe other Japanese soybeans. For example, the Engi-shiki (Cit?? ca. AD 967) and the Wamyosho (951) both mention hishio and miso, but not tofu. Nor is tofu mentioned in the Honso Wamyo (c. 920), the Ishinho (984), the Iryakusho , or the Zokugun Shoruiju , nor in medical literature of the period. Thus it is certainly possible that tofu was not introduced into Japan until the 11th or 12th centuries (Shinoda 1971).

Whereas tofu entered Chinese culture as a poor people's food, it is thought to have been introduced to Japan through the upper classes, those involved with Chinese culture and economic intercourse. The first Japanese to eat tofu were probably Buddhist monks and priests and the court nobility. The Buddhist may well have eaten tofu daily in the great temples at Nara, and Shinoda (1971) believes that it was via this important city that tofu entered Japanese culture. Buddhist monks, with their meatless diets, were certainly a major factor in the spread of tofu as a popular food. It is interesting to note that during this period it was popular, even fashionable, for many in the artistocracy and educated classes to choose a life of voluntary simplicity and meditation. To live simply was "high class." In this sense, tofu entered Japanese culture through both the upper and "lower" classes simultaneously, in somewhat the same way it would enter American in the late 1970s. Some tofu historians believe that most of Japan's (and China's) earliest tofu shops were located within large temples or monasteries and were run by Buddhist priests and temple cooks. However we know of no documentation to support this belief.

The earliest Japanese document mentioning tofu dates from the end of the Heian period. Nakatomino Sukeshige, priest of the shrine at Nara, wrote in his diary on 2 January 1182 (the month was measured by the old almanac) that "one type of shunkin tofu" was included in the offerings at the altar (Shinoda 1971). There are four interesting points about this first mention: (1) the word tofu is written with characters different from those used today. The first character, pronounced to , means "T'ang" as in "T'ang dynasty," and the second character, pronounced fu , means a "sign, mark, charm, or amulet"; (2) the mention appears at a Shinto shrine rather than, as expected, at a Buddhist temple, and especially a temple with strong Chinese influence; and (3) the tofu is used, not as a food, but as an offering. A similar mention appears in the annals of the same shrine on the same date one year later, but this time the reference is to "one type of sokuan tofu" (the meanings of the terms shunkin and sokuan are not clear); (4) the date of January 2 is during the coldest time of the year, the time tofu would stay fresh longest.

Kamakura Period (1182-1333) . The next reference to tofu in Japan appeared about 50 years later, during the Kamakura period, in a letter dated 1239 from the famous Buddhist priest Nichiren Shonin, where he is thanking people who donated gifts to the mass for the dead held at his temple. Again, we note the tofu being used as a ritual offering rather than as a food. In the letter this tofu was called suri-daufu , and written not in Chinese characters but in the Japanese script, hiragana. There may be some significance in the resemblance of the word daufu and the Cantonese word dow-foo, both meaning tofu. Tofu historian Abe (1974) thinks that this suri-daufu was made by mashing tofu well in a suribachi (serrated mortar), mixing in grated glutinous yam, shaping the mixture into little patties, and deep-frying them. The result would have been like today's deep-fried tofu burgers ( ganmodoki ) but containing no vegetables. The fact that the tofu was mashed and made into a secondary food might be an indication of its wider popularity at that time.

One of the main forces that aided the popularization and spread of tofu during the Kamakura period were the various Buddhist sects, especially the Zen sect, which used tofu in their Buddhist Vegetarian Cookery ( Shojin Ryori ). The Shojin school began to flourish in Japan during the late 1200s and served as one of the first vehicles for introducing laymen to the many tofu dishes prepared by monks in monasteries and temples. As part of the large-scale movement to make Japanese Buddhism available to the common people, the five major Kamakura Zen temples each opened Buddhist vegetarian restaurants within their temple compounds and existing ?? records show that tofu was included on the menus. These restaurants led the way in developing much of the tofu cuisine now famous throughout Japan. Laymen, having tasted tofu there for the first time, apparently learned from the monks how to make it, then opened their own tofu shops in the capital cities of Kamakura and Kyoto. It was only later that tofu making spread from the cities to the countryside. Today many of Japan's best known centers of tofu cuisine are located in or near major temples. For example, Tenryuji, an active Zen temple in Arashiyama near Kyoto, is surrounded by at least five restaurants specializing in tofu cuisine, and Nanzenji Zen temple in eastern Kyoto by at least this many tofu restaurants.

One anecdote related to the popularization of tofu during the Kamakura period concerns the origin of a famous Japanese tofu stew called Kenchin-jiru . It is said that there was a big mass?? at Kencho-ji temple in Kamakura. The cooks had planned to serve a tofu dish but many more people than had been expected suddenly showed up. So the cooks broke the tofu into smaller pieces and made it into a thick soup with vegetables. Initially it was called Kencho-jiru , but later the name was changed to Kenchin-jiru . This may have been the first time many of the people present had heard of or tasted tofu or Buddhist Vegetarian Cookery.

During the Kamakura period, the new samurai ruling class practiced a simple, frugal, and down-to-earth way of life. These warriors greatly simplified the national cuisine by their example. It is said that tofu and miso replaced fresh river fish as the ruling shogun's prized delicacies, and that the samurai came to cherish deep-fried tofu pouches and tofu, particularly as ingredients in their breakfast miso soup. It was also at this time that farmers started growing soybeans on a large scale in Japan's cold, dry provinces. By the end of the Kamakura period in 1333 tofu had started to appear on the table in regular homes throughout Japan.

Ashikaga/Muromachi Period (1338-1600) . Starting in the 1300s and accelerating during the 1400s, tofu came to be much more widely mentioned in Japanese documents. Listings of these are given by Shinoda (1971) and Abe (1974). During this period tofu came to be referred to in a number of new ways. In 1457 the word "tofu" was first written with two characters that are pronounced tofu but that mean "T'ang cloth." In 1479 it was first called shiro kabe (literally "white wall," apparently since its surface resembled that of the popular Japanese white walls), a term used by the court nobility. Later it was called shira kabe and o-kabe , a feminine variant of the word. In 1489 the word was first written with the two characters used today, which are the same as those long used in China. It is conceivable that for 300 years the Japanese resisted the use of the character meaning "spoiled" in the name of their new and highly esteemed food; why they finally gave in is not known. In a 1532 document (Cit??) it was called tau-fu , apparently after the Cantonese.

Many of the references to tofu during this period list the names of newly developed tofu recipes: Tofu-jiru (1338, a tofu soup), Dengaku (1437, skewered tofu, spread with a thin coat of miso and grilled over an open fire), Oden (1477, a stew containing tofu in various forms), Mura Dengaku (1489, village-style Dengaku), and Yu-dofu (1586, tofu simmered in water then served with a shoyu dipping sauce). During this period the tofu was generally firm tofu (like that made in China) and the most popular recipe was Dengaku (Shinoda 1971).

A careful reading of documents during this period shows that most of the tofu was made during the coldest months of the year; due to lack of refrigeration, it was hardly made at all in summer. An exception to this was in the large temples, where the tofu was used year round in the vegetarian cuisine. The large number of hungry Buddhist monks guaranteed that whatever was produced would be eaten that day. Outside the temples, there may still have been relatively little demand for tofu.

During this period tofu spread throughout Japan and became a popular daily food at all levels of society. Tea Ceremony Cuisine ( Kaiseki Ryori ), developed in the course of the 1400s and an offshoot of Buddhist Vegetarian Cookery ( Shojin Ryori ), was elevated to the level of a widely influential art during the 1500s by the great tea master and student of Zen, Sen-no-Rikyu (1521-1591). Many of the great tea masters of the period used tofu extensively in their Tea Ceremony Cuisine, which helped to bring tofu into the world of Japanese haute cuisine and to introduce it to famous chefs and restauranteurs. Though originally the school of connoisseurs who cherished the life of tasteful frugality, clung to voluntary simplicity, and practiced ongoing meditation, Kaiseki is now among the most elegant and expensive types of cookery served in Japan. And tofu will often appear in more than half of the dishes on the menu.

By the Muromachi period most Japanese followed the Buddhist practice of refraining from eating the meat of four-legged animals. Thus tofu was welcomed as a tasty and remarkably versatile source of inexpensive, high-quality protein. During this time the Japanese went on to invent several new forms of tofu, including dried-frozen tofu, deep-fried tofu burgers and pouches, grilled tofu, and silken tofu solidifed with nigari. None of these had existed in China.

Toward the end of the Muromachi period, mention of tofu appeared in the waka songs of poetry contests of the 71 merchants. Tofu from the city of Nara (26-30 miles southwest of Kyoto) was compared with the color of the moon. Tofu from Uji (8 miles southwest of Kyoto) was also mentioned. Even at this relatively late date it may have been that the center of tofu production in Japan was the Uji-Nara area southwest of Kyoto. At about the same time tofu became one of the famous products of Kyoto. The city had excellent water and the people developed good tofu-making methods and recipes. Kyoto is still renowned for its tofu, especially in the Arashiyama area west of Kyoto.

Edo/Tokugawa Period (1600-1868) . In 1613 the English Captain John Saris became the first Westerner to mention tofu in Japan. A scroll from the early Edo period showing various Japanese crafts (the Wakoku Shoshoku Emaki ) depicts a woman with a head-tie sitting by the roadside behind cakes of tofu placed on a board (not in water). Next to the picture is a waka poem that reads "Please have some tofu; I came here from Nara". If she had made the tofu in Nara and carried it to Kyoto (26-30 miles), she would have had to have done so in winter, lest it spoil. Not only was Nara a main center of Buddhism in Japan, it was near Japan's largest port city of the time, Sakai, which opened it to foreign influence, and it was a center of new developments in cooking. Murata Juko, Sen-no-Rikyu's teacher, lived in Nara.

During the Edo period, or shortly before it, some of Japan's most famous tofu restaurants started. The oldest of all existing Japanese restaurants, Nakamura-ro, began in about 1575 as a simple tea shop serving travelers, pilgrims, and townspeople as they came to pay homage at the revered Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto's Gion Quarter. Over the centuries the tea shop grew into a restaurant and became famous for its "Gion-dofu," which originated during the 1600s. In front of the shop, women cut cakes of tofu into thin slices at great speed, accompanied by a shamisen player, then made them into Dengaku. Gradually the shop's spirited atmosphere and fine tofu became the subject of poem and song.

Okutan, one of Japan's oldest and best known tofu restaurants, was founded prior to 1675. Started as a tea house on the spacious grounds inside of Nanzenji Zen temple in Kyoto, it soon began serving Zen Temple Cookery and Simmering Tofu ( Yu-dofu ) to the many pilgrims, worshippers, and visitors who came to the famous temple from throughout Japan.

Sasa-no-yuki, probably Japan's most famous tofu restaurant, was founded in 1703 in Tokyo, and has been known since that time for its unequalled nigari silken tofu, made in the basement of the restaurant.

During the Tokugawa period, as tofu became more widely used in Japan, its basic character was gradually changed. In the hands of Japanese craftspeople, tofu became softer, whiter, and more delicate in flavor. Farmhouse tofu alone retained some of the firmness and rich flavor of its Chinese predecessor. It may be that during this period tofu first came to be stored under water; in China it was not stored immersed in water, nor is it by Japanese farmhouse tofu makers to this day.

In 1654 the Chinese Zen master Yin-yuan Lung-ch'i (1592-1673), better known by his Japanese name Ingen Ryuki, arrived in Japan. He founded the Obaku school of Rinzai Zen to transmit the teachings of the master Huang P'o, established Mampukuji temple in Uji as its headquarters, introduced the Japanese to Chinese Tea Ceremony Cuisine ( Fucha Ryori ), and also introduced Chinese-style Pressed Tofu ( doufu gan ). In Japan, Ingen found tofu unlike any he had known in China. In praise of the new food he composed an intricate yet simple proverb, which is well known to this day. It described both the character of Japanese tofu and that of a man who wishes to pass freely and peacefully through this fleeting, illusory world. The proverb went:

Mame de

Shikaku de

Yawaraka de

Each line had a double meaning, allowing the poem to be read either:

Made of soybeans, or Practicing diligence,

Square, cleanly cut, Being proper and honest,

And soft. And having a kind heart.

In 1782 Japan's first "Book of Tofu," the Tofu Hyakuchin was published. Because of its immediate success, a second volume ( Tofu Hyakuchin Zokuhen ) was published the next year. Devoted solely to tofu cuisine and combining the virtues of a travel and restaurant guide with those of a cookbook, the two books introduced the Japanese people to about 230 varieties of tofu cuisine served in the different provinces. A famous book in its day, it was widely imitated and is still widely quoted. Abe (1971, 1974) has published a modern version, nicely illustrated.

Throughout its long history in Japan, tofu has appeared in numerous forms, some of which no longer exist. For example, when the Zen master Ingen, mentioned above, established the well-known Mampukuji temple south of Kyoto, he taught the monks and local tofu masters how to prepare Chinese-style Pressed Tofu. Although this very firm variety became popular during the next century, it is now prepared by only one shop in Japan (located near the temple) and is featured in Zen Temple Cookery only in restaurants near Mampukuji. A closely related type of firm tofu, called rokujo-dofu , was prepared by tying five pieces of pressed tofu together with rice straw, then drying them in direct sunlight until they became dark brown and quite hard. Finely shaved, rokujo-dofu was used like bonito flakes; it is presently prepared only in Fukushima prefecture. A third variety of virtually extinct tofu was walnut tofu, prepared by mixing chunks of walnuts into soybean curds just before they were pressed. Chinese fermented tofu (called nyufu in Japan and doufuru in China) was transmitted to Japan in early times?? and became popular among the aristocracy, in temples, and in a few rural areas. Its strong flavor, however, led to its gradual decline; today it is rarely, if ever, seen.

As tofu became a part of the language and culture, it came to be used in proverbs, sayings, and ceremonies. When a Japanese wants to tell a person to "get lost" he may say, "Go bump your head against the corner of a cake of tofu and drop dead." Or when speaking of something as being hopeless he might say, "It's as futile as trying to clamp two pieces of tofu together." Tradition has it that the emperor Nintoku who ruled Japan about 1600 years ago (AD 313-399) started a tradition called the Women's Mass for Needles, which is still practiced today. At some unknown point in history, tofu came to be used as follows. A cake of tofu was placed on the household altar and all the sewing needles that had been bent or broken during the year were thrust into it. Each needle was thought of as a living being, whose body had been sacrificed in service, and the woman of the house, as an expression of her gratitude, gave it this soft resting place as a reward for its hard work.

Meiji Period (1868-1912) . The Meiji period started a process of rapid modernization and Westernization in Japan. The first important work on tofu from this period was the Tofu Shusetsu ("Compilation of Tofu-Making Theory"). Recorded by Katagiri and Sakakibara?? based on descriptions by the tofu maker Torakichi Katagiri, it was written on Ministry of Education stationery and published in 1872, perhaps as an educational text. It contained a detailed description of how tofu was made at that time, plus clear illustrations of all the pieces of equipment used. It also describes the role of tofu in Japanese culture, saying that it was called by various names including kabe and o-kabe ("wall"), shiromono ("white object"), momiji ("maple"), tonyu ("soymilk"), Wainan kahin ("Huai-nan's superior food"), Shosaiyo ("vice-mayor's mutton"), nangyoku ("soft jewel"), reiki ("morning prayer"), and several others. From the description of the tofu process and equipment, it is clear that neither changed substantially between the 1870s and the 1930s or 1940s, a period during which most other Japanese industries were undergoing rapid modernization. A new edition of this booklet was published by the Japanese National Tofu Association in 1972.

The world's first studies on soyfoods and human nutrition were done in Japan on tofu by Japanese and European scientists, starting in 1885. The first results were published by K. Osawa and Ueda in 1887. T. Suchi (1888), Kellner and Kellner (1887, 1889), and Kano and Iishima (1899) all studied the digestibility of tofu in rice-based diets. These results were first reported in English by Oshima in 1905. Tofu protein was found to be highly (95-98%) digestible.

In 1889 Kellner, a German teaching in Japan, gave a brief description of Japanese tofu. Then in an article on the preparation of shoyu and miso in 1895 he noted that "the majority of the soybeans that are not used for miso or shoyu are used to make tofu." This would seem to imply that less soybeans were used for tofu than for miso and shoyu, indicating that, proportionally, tofu was a less important food then than it is today.

In 1895 Inouye published "The Preparation and Chemical Composition of Tofu," the first detailed scientific study of tofu production in Japan. This excellent 7-page English-language article served to introduce tofu to many Western scientists. Inouye gave a description of how tofu was made in a small Japanese shop (the slurry was cooked for l hour and the final protein recovery was only 25%), an analysis of the nigari used (it contained 27.9% magnesium chloride and 7% calcium chloride), an analysis of the mechanism by which the nigari worked (by precipitation, not coagulation), a description of the finished tofu (sold in Tokyo in long, flat cakes, each 4 by 10 by 0.8 inches thick), and nutritional analyses of regular tofu, soymilk, dried-frozen tofu, yuba, and okara.

Katayama (1906b) did the earliest known experiments using tofu to make a fermented Swiss-style cheese (see Chapter 43).

Let us now take a look at the basic tools, methodology, and spirit that characterized the tofu-making craft during the Meiji period, and which were largely unchanged from earliest times up until World War II. The traditional tofu shop was a cottage industry, generally attached to the tofu maker's home and facing the street. It was often no larger than 12 by 15 feet. The entire family (including grandparents and children) generally worked together, rising early each morning to have tofu ready by breakfast time. The wooden tools and containers widely used in traditional shops were typically made from either sawara (Pea-fruited Japanese cyprus; Chamaecyparis pisifera) or hinoki (Japanese ground cyprus). The soybeans were typically the large-seeded vegetable type grown in Japan. A recipe for the process might read as follows: Soak the soybeans overnight in water, then grind them to a fine puree, together with a trickle of water, between horizontal-axis granite millstones, with the top stone having a hole in it and turned either directly by hand or by using a push-pull device (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1975, p. 288). Have water drawn from the shop's deep well boiling in a 33-gallon iron caldron over a fire fueled by hand-cut wood (oak was considered best) or sawdust or rice hulls. Add the puree, return to the boil, and simmer for 20-30 minutes (in some shops up to 60 minutes). When foam beings to overflow the lip of the caldron, stir in a defoamer, typically made from ground natural limestone or sifted wood ash mixed with a little thick oil (usually rapeseed oil) previously used for deep-frying. Transfer the contents of the caldron into a cloth sack set on a rack over a curding vat. Use a simple lever press, with the tofu maker sitting on one end of a levered 6-foot-long board, (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1975, p. 79) to extract the soymilk. Recook the okara (insoluble residue) with water, and extract a second batch of weaker soymilk, then add it to the first batch. To the hot soymilk in the wooden curding vat, stir in natural nigari, adding it in three steps, to coagulate the soymilk. The nigari, a by-product of the salt-making process, consists mainly of magnesium chloride. Ladle off the whey, scoop the curds into shallow, cloth-lined wooden forming boxes, and press them with a fairly heavy weight. If desired, immerse the rather firm tofu in a vat of circulating cold water; it can also be sold without immersion in water, especially during the cold months (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1975).

Much of the tofu was sold directly from the shop, with the rest being sold each afternoon around the neighborhood. The tofu maker would put his tofu into each of two shallow wooden tubs, which were suspended from each end of a wooden or bamboo shoulder pole (Fig. ). With the pole balanced on one shoulder, he would go along his route from house to house announcing his coming with a small brass horn used only by tofu makers. He would cut off from the larger cakes of tofu whatever amount his customers desired; they would take it home in a bowl or pot. No packaging was used.

The spirit with which tofu was traditionally made in Japan shared to a large extent the spirit of all the Japanese crafts (pottery, sword making, etc.) in which the daily work of the craftsman was regarded as a spiritual path and practice. It was a time-honored way of deepening and transforming one's being toward the realization of one's True-Self. Work done in the spirit of practice was likewise its own fulfillment and reward, a constant being-in-nowness with full awareness, in which the craftsman learned to work with his whole body and mind. The traditional craftsman placed great importance on the quality of his work and the quality of his tofu, which were seen as manifestations of the depth of his understanding and practice. He was first and foremost a craftsman, and only secondly a merchant. He worked in a shop that was simple, well-ordered, and immaculate; the perfect union of the aesthetic and the practical.

The work of the traditional tofu maker had its inborn yearly rhythms, which moved with the great majestic movements of the seasons. Winter kept the tofu fresh. Spring was the season of silken tofu ( kinugoshi ) and deep-fried tofu pouches (abura-age), which were stuffed with vinegared rice for Inari-zushi at mid-March school graduation parties. Summer was the time of greatest tofu demand, especially for Chilled Tofu ( Hiya-yakko ), which tasted refreshing in hot weather. Fall was the season for grilled tofu, Oden, Sukiyaki and other warming dishes, and the time when the new-crop soybeans arrived and made the most delicious tofu. Each September, in some parts of Japan, tofu makers held a public festival in honor of the God or Spirit of Water, Suijin-sama , who provided each shop with an abundant supply of clear cold well water. A parade began at the local shrine, wound through the town, and concluded at a warm tavern for an evening of fraternizing. It is said that from these gatherings grew Japan's earliest tofu trade associations. The week before New Year's day was the busiest one of the year as families stocked up for the festivities. All the food had to be prepared before the arrival of the New Year, after which the cook was given 3-7 days of well-deserved rest.

Each year, throughout Japan, tofu-making contests were held among master craftsmen. First on the city, then on the provincial, and finally on the national level, these craftsmen met for a period of several days and were judged by retired masters on the speed and accuracy of their cutting, their ability to grind smooth and thick soy puree or make tofu pouches that expanded well, and above all on their ability to make tofu with fine flavor, texture, bouquet, and appearance.

Essential to traditional tofu making was the apprenticeship system, which linked master, disciple, and lineage. The average apprenticeship lasted 8 years; the apprentice learned mostly doing and watching. There was relatively little direct or systematic instruction. In many cases the son would apprentice with his father and eventually inherit the family shop. If he planned to start his own shop--rather than take over his master's--he would receive the treasured gift of his master's lineage name, which he would inscribe in bold letters above his shop door, on his work lapel and apron, and on certain tools (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 1975).

Developments from 1912-1939 . Things moved slowly. In 1926 Matsuyama and Hashimoto (Cit?? CB??), in a League of Nations publication, reported on the proteins in tofu. According to Horvath, by 1927 two or three kinds of patents had been granted in Japan for the manufacture of tofu from defatted soybean meal. Dorsett and Morse (1928-31, Vols. 3 and 5) gave several detailed descriptions with photographs of the tofu making process during that time, noting that by 1929 motor-driven stone mills had been introduced. Calcium chloride first started being used as a coagulant in 1937. The number

of tofu shops increased rapidly during this period, as shown in Figure ??.


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