View Full Version : The History of Tofu and Soy Milk

Oct 8th, 2006, 08:33 AM
A little excerpt from http://www.thesoydailyclub.com/SFC/NFsoyfoods361.asp

Tofu, also called "bean curd," is a fresh, cheese-like product made by curding soymilk; it is sold in ready-to-eat cakes. Yet in a broader sense, tofu refers to an entire family of foods including silken tofu, deep-fried tofu burgers, cutlets and pouches, firm and pressed tofu, grilled and smoked tofu, and frozen and dried-frozen tofu. Each of these types has its own unique history, as will be discussed at the end of this chapter.

Tofu has long been the most widely used soyfood in the world. In East Asia it has much the same importance that meat, milk, and cheese have for people in Western countries. Worldwide the tofu industry is very large. In 1982 it consisted of an estimated 245,000 manufacturers, including 30,000 in Japan, 200,000 in the People's Republic of China, 11,000 in Indonesia, 2,500 in Korea, 1,500 in Taiwan, and 225 in the Western world. The world's largest factories, located in Japan, make over 50 tonnes (metric tons) of tofu a day (15,000 tonnes a year).

Etymology. In China, the standard Mandarin term for tofu in the pinyin writing system is doufu (formerly written as tou-fu in the Wade-Giles system, but pronounced DOE-fu in both). In Cantonese it is tau-fu or dau-fu (both pronounced DAU-fu) and in Hokkien it is tau-hu (pronounced dau-hu). The earliest known mention of this word was in about AD 950, just before the Sung dynasty. Before that time, the food may have been referred to by poetical or other names such as li ch'i ("morning prayer") as will be discussed later.

Tofu is a Japanese word; the earliest known appearance was in 1182. During the 1400s, tofu developed a number of nicknames in Japan, such as shiro kabe or shira kabe, and later okabe. More here (http://www.thesoydailyclub.com/SFC/NFsoyfoods361.asp).

From http://www.soya.be/history-of-soy-milk.php :

The oldest evidence of soy milk production is a Chinese mural incised on a stone slab. It shows a kitchen scene that proves that soy milk and tofu were being made in China during the period A.D. 25-220. The oldest written reference to soy milk appeared in also in China at about A.D. 1500., in a poem "Ode to Tofu" by Su Ping.

The earliest European reference to soy milk was in 1665 by Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete and in 1790 by Juan de Loureiro, a Portuguese missionary who lived in Vietnam. All these early references to soy milk only mentioned soy milk as part of the process for making tofu. Only 1866, Frenchman Paul Champion, who had traveled in China, mentioned that the Chinese drank hot soy milk for breakfast.

Soy milk was first referred to in the United States by Henry Trimble in 1896 in the American Journal of Pharmacy. In 1910, Li Yu-ying, a Chinese living in Paris founded the world's first soymilk factory. In 1917, the first commercial soymilk in the US was produced J.A. Chard Soy Products in New York.

The first calcium fortified soy milk was produced in 1931 by Madison Foods, Tennessee. This Madison Foods company was run by the faculty of the Madison College. In 1939 Miller started to produce canned liquid soy milk, which was called Soya La, because the dairy industries prevented Miller from calling the product "soy milk".

Oct 8th, 2006, 08:51 AM
Thanks for the useful info, Korn.