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History of Tofu

Tofu originated in China. Who invented it?

Regions where tofu is eaten

At present, the regions where tofu is eaten cover China through to the Korean Peninsular, Japan, and also South East Asia. Japan and China use the same Kanji characters to write gTofuh. Tofu is pronounced gTobuh in the Korean Peninsular, gTo-fuuh in Myanmar and gTofuh in Java. Although there are some differences in pronunciation due to language/dialect, it is clear that the same name is being used throughout these regions.

Although it is generally acknowledged that tofu originated in China, when and where it was first conceived, and by whom, is not known.

Tofu originated in China. Who invented it?

A search through ancient Chinese texts reveals a statement written some two thousand years ago to the effect that Prince Liu An of Huainan was the creator of tofu. The statement, gThe method for making tofu was originated by Prince Liu An of Huainanh, can be found in the gPen-Tsao Kang-Muh (Bencao Gangmu) written by Li Shizhen of the Ming Dynasty. In todayfs terms, this book is an encyclopedia, and it was an essential read for the intellectuals of the time. The fact that this statement is found in this famous book is considered to be the reason for the dissemination of the gTofu/Prince of Huainan Theoryh. Although many other texts mention the gPrince of Huainan Theoryh, some doubts still remain.

The raw ingredient of tofu, the soybean, was not available in China at the time of Prince Liu An. The soybean was introduced into China half a century later.

Furthermore, Prince Liu An, a renowned scholar, wrote many literary works such as the gHuainanzih book of philosophy, but none of these contain the word gTofuh. However, various terms that include gHuainanh in China are still used as a substitute term for tofu due to the influence of the gPen-Tsao Kang-Muh.

Consequently, the origin of tofu is still unclear. However, if you trace an imaginary path culminating in the production of tofu, you can reason that in the course of experimenting with ways of eating the nutrient rich soybean, people discovered through experience that soy milk was easiest to digest, and as they added salts and flavorings, tofu was born. In other words, the current production technique was not a result of the first attempt and todayfs tofu gradually resulted from much experimentation and experience.

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