Legends of Tofu

News and Travel Editor

In today’s upload, we’re meeting a married couple who have devoted their lives to making Tofu.

So we now know how to make Tofu, but where did it come from? The earliest existing document containing mention of the term “doufu” (Chinese for Tofu) is the Ch’ing I Lu, written by T’ao Ku in about 950 AD. There are several  Chinese legends concerning the origins of Tofu, but which is true?

  1. A popular theory is that tofu was invented by Liu An, King of Huai-nan, who lived in the southeast part of north China from 179-122 BC. Despite being the most well known story, it’s also the least likely to be true. There was no mention of tofu or any works commissioned by or about Liu An for over 1,000 years after his death. Linking his name with the development of tofu didn’t actually start until the 12th century AD.During the Sung dynasty (960-1279AD) tofu had become a common food for the lower classes. The first suggestion of some connection between Liu An and tofu appeared in the poems of scholar Chu Hsi (1130-1200). Here is his poem, “Doufu.” (Psst, if you’re interesting in reading about translating ancient Chinese poetry, have a look here)

    I have raised beans for many years, but the sprouts were rare.

    Exhausted in the garden, the heart already rotten

    Had I known Huai-nan’s skill earlier,

    I could have sat quietly, raking in the money.

  2. Another theory is known as ‘The Accidental Coagulation Theory’. It states that tofu was developed  accidentally some time before AD 600, when an unknown person seasoned a pureed soybean soup with unrefined sea salt and noticed that curds formed. This mystery person stumbled onto a game-changer!
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  3. The Indian Import Theory argues that tofu, or at least the method for its preparation, was imported from tribes or Buddhist monks from India.
  4. The Mongolian Import Theory states that the basic method for making tofu was adapted from the cheese-making process learned from milk-drinking Mongolian tribes living along the northern border of China.5th-cut-00_03_42_18-still015

Which legend do you believe?

Wherever it came from originally, Tofu developed from being a food for the lower classes to being a staple part of the Chinese diet. To try cooking with Tofu yourself and have a go at China Icon’s Vegan Tofu Mushroom rolls!

 

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