What came first the soybean or tofu?

January 16, 2019

The answer to the question in the title is simple. Soybeans came first. Tofu-making was first recorded during China’s Han dynasty more than 2,000 years ago. Chinese legend credits its invention to Prince Liu An (179–122 BC).

We learn from Soya.be that “Soybeans originate from China. In 2853 BC, Emperor Sheng-Nung of China named five sacred plants – soybeans, rice, wheat, barley, and millet. Soybean plants were domesticated between 17th and 11th century BC in the eastern half of China where they were cultivated into a food crop.”

And Eating China reports, “But while those ancient farmers had discovered a new food source, only their descendants, almost 1,000 years in the future would begin to fully understand the nutritional value of the soybean. The long history of domestication resulted in a great variety of upright hardy soy plants that do well in a wide range of soil and weather conditions. The main types of soybeans are categorized by seed color: green, black and by far the most common, yellow, the variety that inspired the bean’s other name, Yellow Legume, Huang Dou.” …

“Making soy milk was one of the early methods. Soy milk is nothing more than a milky liquid that results from boiling and mashing whole beans, so we can assume that it was not long before soy milk was ‘invented.’ Initially it may have been eaten as bean meal soup. Even today in China soy milk remains a drink that is processed and consumed in simple ways, though it is often sweetened and occasionally salted.”

I can attest that fresh soy milk in China is much better than most soy milk you buy in supermarkets in the United States. When visiting China, I get up early to go to the nearest market that makes fresh soy juice and buy it without sugar or sweetener added. There is no comparison. It’s warm. It’s fresh. It’s China. It’s different from the genetically altered, American, factory-farmed soy juice sold in American markets. That stuff is “yuk” and I don’t touch it.

I’ve even made tofu chocolate pie at home. The Chinese invented tofu, but I was introduced to Chocolate Tofu Pie at Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa, California. Then I figured out how to make it at home by experimenting. You may find the recipe HERE.

Then there is stinky tofu, another of my favorites. When visiting Nanjing Road in Shanghai between People Square and the Bund, we always stop at the same shop, and I order deep fried, fresh chou dofu (stinky tofu) with peppercorn sauce that’s spicy hot enough to make me sweat.

Medical News Today.com says, “Tofu is made from soybean curds. It is naturally gluten-free and low in calories. It contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of iron and calcium.” It is also an important source of protein, especially for vegans and vegetarians. “It also contains isoflavones such as phytoestrogens. Isoflavones may have both estrogen-agonist or estrogen-antagonist properties. These may help protect against some cancers, heart disease, and osteoporosis.”

Then there are the health benefits from soybean sprouts. Livestrong.com says, “Even though you can sprout seeds from any type of bean, the two most common types are mung bean and soybean sprouts, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Bean sprouts give you an easy way to boost the nutrients in your diet. Toss them onto your salad, use them in a sandwich or add them to soups and casseroles, and you’ll quickly increase the amount of protein, B vitamins and vitamin C.”

In fact, the Chinese learned how to sprout beans on their sailing ships to protect Chinese sailors from scurvy long before the west discovered that vitamin C prevented the disease. Our Everyday Life.com says, “Soy bean sprouts, which are germinated soy beans, have been used for human consumption for more than 5,000 years.” Just one of the benefits: “Soy bean sprouts provide the B vitamin, folate, which is essential for the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. One cup of raw soy bean sprouts has 120mcg of folate. Adults need 400mcg of folate daily, according to the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine. Soy bean sprouts are also a source of vitamin C and pantothenic acid.”

Soy bean sprouts were not the only source of vitamin C for ancient Chinese sailors. Asian cultures have relied on fermented cabbage to survive long winters between fruit seasons for thousands of years. Kimchi, sauerkraut’s Korean cousin, was historically used during winter to stave off vitamin deficiencies, while early records show workers building the Great Wall of China ate fermented cabbage regularly when fruit was not available.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Chocolate Tofu Pie

March 21, 2017

China was making tofu from soybeans more than two thousand years ago.

Shape.com says, ““Generally, less processed soy products, like tofu, are safe and healthy for most people. On the other hand, heavily processed soy-based products should be consumed in moderation, if at all,” advises Ochner, who says edamame, fermented soy, and tofu are considered among the healthiest in the soy family.

When in China, I get up early to go to the nearest market that makes fresh soy juice and I buy it without sugar or sweetener added. There is no comparison. It’s warm. It’s fresh. It’s China. It’s different from the genetically altered, American, factory-farmed soy juice sold in American markets. That stuff is “yuk” and I don’t touch it.

The Chinese invented tofu, but some Americans are reinventing it. For instance, I was introduced to Chocolate Tofu Pie at Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa, California, and I was hooked,.

Back home, I figured out how to make it by experimenting. The following recipe was the result.

Ingredients:

  • Two 10-ounce containers of soft or silken organic tofu
  • Two four-ounce packages of baker’s, unsweetened chocolate—but use only six of the ounces. This chocolate has no milk or sweeteners added.  Use six ounces of the eight.
  • One bag of malt-sweetened chocolate bits. There are no dairy or refined sugars in this chocolate. Use half of this bag. If you skip this ingredient, add more of the baker’s, unsweetened chocolate.
  • Agave nectar. This low absorbing sweetener is absorbed into the body slowly. You can use any sweeter you want.
  • One package of ready-made whole-wheat pie crust (recommended for fiber). You could also make a pie crust out of dates and nuts (see next video)
  • Use one tablespoon of arrowroot for a thickener

Directions:

  • Mix the tofu in a blender with the arrowroot or another natural thickener.
  • Heat the chocolate in a pan (double boiler hopefully) until melted and pour into blended tofu and mix.
  • Add the Agave nectar.
  • Taste to make sure it is sweet enough and that the bitterness from the baker’s chocolate is gone. Add more Agave if desired. Our daughter enjoys this step the most, since she is the taster.
  • Blend until it is all one smooth color.
  • Pour equally into the pie pans.
  • Put pies in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Let pies cool after cooking; put in refrigerator after they are cool.

The pies will be ready the next day.

Note: I usually shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for the ingredients used in the tofu chocolate pie.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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