What Is Tofu

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World Tofu Day is approaching, and you may be asking yourself, what is tofu exactly? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, tofu is a: “Soft, bland, custard like food product […] It is made from dried soybeans that are soaked in water, crushed, and boiled to produce a solid pulp and liquid soy “milk.” Coagulants are then added to the milk to separate the curds from the whey.” [1]

Actually, the term tofu, when translated from its original mandarin roots, literally means “spoiled soybeans”.[2] The making of tofu was perfected in China, and although the exact date of discovery is uncertain, historic findings can trace the consumption of tofu all the way back to the 10th century[3]. Soybeans being widely available in China, and the production of tofu being relatively easy, the consumption of tofu soon became an affordable option for families who couldn’t afford meat[4]. Not only was tofu widely consumed because of its price, but also because of the health benefits that the Chinese attributed to it. Indeed, long before modern science studied the benefits of eating tofu, the Chinese associated the consumption of tofu with a long and healthy life[5]. The Chinese also had different ways of preparing tofu for meals, including frying it, smoking it, and drying it, and most of the time, using herbs to give it flavor[6].

In more recent times, as tofu became popular in the western world, new forms of tofu products emerged: tofu curds, pressed tofu sheets and frozen tofu. We must not forget the variety of other soy-based products that have popped up: tempeh, soy ice cream, soy cheese and even soy yoghurt[7]. On top of being versatile and delicious, the soy-bean is also the most cultivated and healthiest legume on the planet[8]. Indeed, the soy-bean, therefore, all soy-based products, are packed with nutrients (protein, carbohydrates and lipids) and full of antioxidants[9].

So, what is tofu exactly? One thing is for sure, it’s much more than a simple beige block of soy or to quote Merriam-Webster: a custard like food product! Take a deep breath and take the plunge into a cruelty-free world of animal product alternatives! Try Tofu!


[1]  Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/
[2] Willam Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, Soyinfo Center, http://www.soyinfocenter.com/ (accessed June 28, 2014)
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[8], Sylvia Burssens et al. “Soya, Human Nutrition and Health.” In Soybean and Nutrition (Rijeka, Croatia: InTech, 2011) 158
[9] Burssens et al., Soya, Human Nutrition and Health, 159