Tofu, or bean curd, is a popular food derived from soya. It is made by curdling fresh soya milk, pressing it into a solid block and then cooling it – in much the same way that traditional dairy cheese is made by curdling and solidifying milk. The liquid (whey) is discarded, and the curds are pressed to form a cohesive bond.
who invented tofu?
Liú Ān (179–122 BC) of the Han Dynasty invented ToFu. In some versions of the tale, the prince created the dish in an attempt at producing an elixir of immortality. In other versions of the tale, the prince produced the dish as an easily consumable source of nutrition for his ailing grandmother.
Liu An was the grandson of the founder of the Han dynasty. His paternal grandfather Liu Bang, generally known by his posthumous name Emperor Gaozu of Han, 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 Emperor Gaozu of Han and the younger half brother of Wu Ti, one of the greatest of the Han emperors.
Where did tofu originally come from?
Like many soya foods, tofu originated in China. Legend has it that it was discovered about 2000 years ago by a Chinese cook who accidentally curdled soy milk when he added nigari seaweed. Introduced into Japan in the eighth century, tofu was originally called ‘okabe‘. Its modern name did not come into use until 1400. By the 1960s, interest in healthy eating brought tofu to Western nations.
There are many theories behind the invention of Tofu. One of them states that the discovery of Tofu was by Lord Liu An, a Han Dynasty prince. According to another theory, tofu was discovered when once impure sea salt accidentally got mixed in boiled, ground soybeans. In the information of the last group of theories, the ancient Chinese learned the method for curdling soy milk by emulating the milk curdling techniques of the Mongolians or East Indians.
How is tofu good for you?
Soya protein (from which tofu is derived) is believed to help lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). Tofu contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones – a group of chemicals found in plant foods. They have a similar structure to the female hormone oestrogen and therefore mimic the action of oestrogen produced by the body. They naturally bind to oestrogen receptor sites in human cells including breast cells – potentially reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Due to the phytoestrogen content of soya, many women decide to include soya-rich foods like tofu in their diet as they enter the menopause. During the menopause, the body’s natural production of oestrogen significantly reduces, and symptoms may arise. As phytoestrogens act as a weak oestrogen, they may help relieve symptoms by boosting levels slightly, reducing hot flushes in some women.
Genetics, your gut microbiota and environmental factors play a huge part in how our bodies react to certain foods, so, as yet, we can’t say whether a diet rich in phytoestrogenic foods is beneficial or not. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, soya-based foods like tofu can be an invaluable part of your diet.