In the diet today, there is a kind of food that has become an indispensable delicacy for people. The tofu (bean curd) promoted as the “nutritional treasure” in the world today. Tofu has accompanied human beings for more than 2000 years. However, who on earth invented it? How was it invented? And where was it invented?
More than 2000 years ago, the smoke of war in Huainan just receded, and China’s territory developed towards unification once again. The powerful Han Dynasty started to be established. Liu Bang, the founding emperor, enfeoffed this fertile land, Huainan, to his youngest son, Liu Chang. Therefore, Liu Chang became the first King of Huainan. This is the ancient town of Shouxian County. In those years, the capital city of the Huainan State was located right here.
In 164 BC, 16-year-old Liu An, the youngest son of Liu Chang and also the grandson of Liu Bang, became the King of Huainan due to the hereditary succession. Liu An was intelligent and had read extensively since he was a child. He was good at music, poem, and writing and also took care of his fief with cautiousness and conscientiousness. Before long, Huainan State became one of the most powerful and prosperous vassal states of Han Dynasty.
Liu An not only governed the country well but also was an inheritor of Taoist thought. He gathered and fed thousands of talents to refine panacea for living forever. There is a beautiful chain of mountains is called Bagong Mountain, located in the west of Huainan City today. Huai River flows through the northern foot of the mountain. The Battle of Feishui (Fei River), one of the famous battles having obtained success with a force inferior in number in the ancient history of China, Occurred right here.
According to historical records, it was at the Bagong Mountain where Liu An constructed furnaces for refining panacea in those years. There were eight most famous wizards refining panacea for Liu An, and they were known as eight wizards. This is people called it Bagong (Eight-Man) Mountain. In the course of refining panacea, the soybean milk was sometimes mixed with plaster, and a purely white solid substance would be generated. Then tofu was invented. As a result, Liu An failed to refine panacea but accidentally invented the tofu.
At the very beginning, tofu was made by Taoists to eat. Later, it was spread to the imperial court and then among the folks from the court. The tofu was refined in the panacea furnace, and it initially appeared as a panacea. Since then, Liu An was honored as the originator of tofu, and the Bagong Mountain in Huainan actually became the place of origin of tofu. Li Shizhen, a great medical scientist in Ming Dynasty, said in his famous works “Compendium of Materia Medica”, the making method of tofu was derived from Li An.
According to research, the appearance of tofu was related to nobles’ pursuit of health caring and living forever in the early Western Han Dynasty. Some people prolonged their lives by drinking human milk, and one prime minister (in feudal China) named Zhang Cang lived to be more than 100 years by drinking human milk. But it was very expensive after all, and most people could not afford it.
To prolong lives, people used the soybean milk to replace the human milk. The soybean milk had appeared at that time with a simple making method. The soybean milk appeared earlier than tofu and prevailed in the early Western Han Dynasty to keep in good health.
At first, there were a wide variety of names for tofu. It was originally called Shu Ru. Later, it was called Lai Qi, little sheep and delicious milk and even Li Qi. As for the name Li Qi there were several explanations. One of the explanations is said that when Liu An and the eight wizards refined the panacea they prayed before daybreak praying that they expected successful alchemy and occurrence of a miracle, so it was called Li Qi (paying at daybreak).
As a delicacy, tofu has been deeply loved by people. After soybean is made into tofu, its nutrition does not disappear, instead, it increases quickly. From statistics, for nutrients in the soybean, its protein in per 100g of soybean is between 50g and 63.5g. after made into tofu, its protein is increased to 92%-96%. Its various nutrients are generally increased.
However, only the cholesterin decreases. Tofu contains a lot of calcium, magnesium, protein, and some phosphorus and magnesium, etc. All of these trace elements contain a lot of microelements that humanly requires.
Spread to overseas
The invention of tofu is not only a traditional treasure of the Chinese nation but also the common spiritual wealth of all mankind.
In A.D. 757, a monk in Yangzhou Daming Temple at that time called Jianzhen took a sea-voyage eastward to Japan and brought several Chinese traditional manufacturing technologies, including our tofu making technology. The monk Jianzhen was also respected as “the Founder of Japanese Tofu Industry”.
In the last years of Song dynasty, Chinese tofu was, then, introduced to ancient Korea.
Approximately at the end of 18th century and the early 19th century, it was introduced to Europe. That was probably in 1902 in the late Qing dynasty, Li Shizeng, a son of an assistant minister of the Ministry of War in Qing dynasty, studied abroad in France, Europe, and took the Chinese Tofu making technology to France. At that time, the French liked this kind of soybean milk (including tofu) very much and spoke highly of it. They felt that it could be compared to milk, and it began to be popular in France, even to Africa and America so that tofu became a precious food product enjoyed worldwide.
During the annual Chinese Tofu Culture Festival, numerous guests from home and abroad came to Bagong Mountain to worship the primogenitor of tofu, Liu An.
Liu An Tofu
Soon after its appearance, Owing to its delicious and unique taste as well as the significant nutritional value, Tofu swept the entire country of China. Stepping into Huainan today, the fragrance of tofu pervades every corner at foot of the Bagong Mountain, and tofu is certainty a delicacy to be enjoyed. Enthusiastic hosts would always offer a delicious dish “Liu An Tofu”.
How to make
The making process of this dish is to pour the soybean milk into a container and then add the gluconolactone, and the magnesium oxide or the calcium oxide. That is the making method of glucose: add a suitable amount of soybean milk to be cooked into the container, then it is directed made into a tofu dish. This dish is directly made before the customers who will enjoy it, and tofu could be made within just two or three minutes. The Huainan tofu culture with a history of 2000 years is directly displayed before customers in two or three minutes. Within a few minutes, soybean milk has become tofu in front of customers. After tasting this dish, customers are amazed at its delicious and unique taste.
Delicious tofu helps Huainan people make various famous tofu dishes. There is a dish feasting our eyes called “tofu dumplings in clear soup”. It uses tofu to make dumpling wrapper. How could the crisp tofu be made into dumpling wrapper?
It is very particular about cutting skill. Tofu is made into thin slice by pushing the knife. While this thin slice is for wrapping the stuffing, i.e. the dumpling wrapper. First, choose a big bowl, put its bottom upwards, then use a piece of white cloth, or gauze, to cover the bowl bottom, and fill appropriate stuffing into it. With the help of gauze or cloth, double over it by hand, and use the part between your thumb and index finger to press it into tofu dumpling. After the exquisite dumplings are prepared, they are required to be steamed in a bamboo steamer for 2 to 3 minutes so as to shape, then they may be cooked in a pot. Cooking of tofu dumplings is also very particular. It can not be taken by hand, but the dashed into the pot with the clear soup. After being cooked, and exquisite tofu dish tofu dumplings in clear soup is made.
Qiji tofu is very famous
As for the Huainan tofu, it is of fine texture. Its fine skin is of lard or butter, while color as jade. It tastes smooth and delicate and stimulates the appetite. When put in the hands, it would just rock but not collapse. When put in the soup for cooking for a long period, it would not sink or crack. Qiji tofu was especially delicious，it’s main reason is the good water and beans. Water used by groundwater. These beans are the best along Huai River. There is a big climate difference along the Huai River with the fertile and fine soil which is excellent for soybeans. So the finishes tofu is certainly different from the ones from other places. It is white, fine and soft. When put into the mouth, it tastes delicious.
Water has a great influence on making tofu. It is deemed as a basic requirement for tofu making. The main raw materials of tofu are soybeans and water. Different water used for making tofu makes its protein and productive rate greatly different, and really tastes unusual.
It’s said that when Liu An, the king of Huainan, refined panacea in the mountain, he used to take the water in the spring, for making tofu. There’s a strange phenomenon about Peal Spring. When the visitors besides the spring clap or scream loudly, the pearl-shaped water will pour out from the spring continuously. The louder the sound is, the more the water will bubble up. So Pearl Spring is also called Screaming Spring. Until now, the local people are still using this water to making a unique tofu.
As tofu is full of nutrients, cheap, convenient for eating. And good for both children and adults, it’s deeply favored by people. Meanwhile, it has the medical value of preventing and curing disease and prolonging the life.
There are varieties of tofu products in Chinese food. Besides tofu, there is tofu skin, bean curd sheets, steamed bean curd roll, dried bean curd, fermented bean curd and dried bean curd sticks, etc. Tofu skin has the highest nutrient value. Tofu skin is the skin of tofu. Its nutrient value is among the tofu products, and can be called as “the king of tofu”. If the color is getting old, it is not “the King”, but “the skin”. Their tastes are also different. This one has a very fragrant bean flavor, while that one is a little insipid.There are many dishes about tofu in China. Like Deep-Fried Tofu, Uncongealed Tofu, Fleshy foam Tofu, Stinky Tofu, Mapo Tofu, Dried tofu and Hairy Tofu.
Nowadays, tofu is not only a delicious dish but also has diet therapy and health care effects and is arousing attention from more and more people. The fragrance of tofu has been spreading all over the world.