What’s the Big Deal About Tofu?
When someone asks you to think of an alternative to meat and meat byproduct tofu is the first thing that comes to mind. This soy-based product has been popular in America for decades as a great source of protein from dieters, vegetarians, and vegans alike. But how much do we know about it? Is it really good for you, and if so, what can we benefit from it? The only way to know the truth is to look it up. So let’s dive in and find out how tofu came to be as well as how far it has come.
Tofu is a lot older than most people think. If someone from America didn’t know any better, they would swear it was a byproduct of the 60’s hippie craze. The truth is it has been a dietary staple for centuries in the Eastern part of the world.
Tofu, as we call it today, is the Japanese word for processed soymilk that is processed through salt from seawater and is pressed into large white blocks. Its processing technique is not that much different from making cheese and has been the staple of the Japanese diet for centuries. But that is not where Tofu came from.
The Japanese, before us, borrowed both the cooking technique and the word from another country of origin. Tofu is a derivative of the Chinese word “dofu” and the earliest signs of its creation have been dated far back from the Han Dynasty (220 BCE – CE 220). However, it wasn’t a main staple of the Chinese diet until much later in the Song dynasty (960CE–1279CE). Back then, it was popular among the lower classes and could only be made and sold during the wintertime. Over time its popularity spread throughout Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia from either migrants who came from China or Japanese soldiers trying to gain territory over time.
It was first mentioned in America as “Chinese cheese” by Benjamin Franklin to John Bartram via letter in 1770. However, it was not well known or mainstream in America until the 20th century. From there, the West was exposed to Eastern cuisine.
Types of Tofu
Because tofu is such a well-traveled food, over time there have been several different types that have been developed as a byproduct of cultural exchange and experimentation with ingredients.
There are types of tofu that differ in texture such as the firm tofu or the silken. And, there are types of tofu that differ from the type of milk such as almond, chickpea, and peanut tofu. There is a website dedicated to classifying the different types of tofu that exist and have recipes. You should check them out if you are interested in experimenting with it.