A Bite of China – Transformation from Soybean to Tofu
It seems to all eaters that flavour is a top priority. And Chinese people never confine themselves to a flat and monotonous list of food. They are always giving it their best shot at seeking transformation from plant to delicacy. With their own understanding of food in Chinese Cuisines, they create conditions and seize opportunities in the process all the time.
Tofu, symbolic of food culture of Central Plains (an area on the lower reaches of the Yellow River which formed the cradle of Chinese civilization), going on a 2000-year journey from birth to prosperity is a kind of dainty that are transformed from soybeans.
Shou County, a small and ancient town, lies in the north of Anhui province. Residents here have a great affection of this food. They are convinced of their forefathers as the inventors of the great tofu.
When it comes to the middle of October, the northern Anhui has harvested soybeans. Tofu, or bean curd is the most popular food if it is made of these fresh soybeans. In the long history of agriculture in China, soybeans have taken up a position of vital importance. Of all known legumes, the soybean is most rich in protein and the most inexpensive food source. However, it was once in a dilemma in that it failed to stimulate people's appetite and was easy to increase flatulence. Consequently, what needs badly is to fine a perfect way to eat soybeans.
After repeated attempts, sensible people have come up with the way. Grind the soybean and add water to it, and bean milk is done. Then comes the key to transformation from the fluid to tofu - calcium sulfate, a whit powder and mix them. In the boiling bean milk, denaturalized protein and calcium sulfate immediately have gelation effect. It happens so quick that can be noticed within a second. At the sight of the change from white liquid into white solid, you cannot help feeling amazed.
As a matter of fact, calcium sulfate had often been recorded in the book of Chinese warlocks in the remote times. Coincidently, the close connection between the white powder and tofu had relation to this. It is believed that more than 2000years ago, Líu Ān (Chinese: 刘安, 179 BC – 122 BC), a Chinese prince who had happened to drop calcium sulfate when cultivating pellet in Bagong Mountain made tofu. No matter how dramatic the story is, Chinese people must have found the way to produce the remarkable tofu through trial and error.
On all accounts, the presence of tofu has changed the fate of tofu to the core.
Tofu is unique in the eyes of Chinese people who are adept in cuisine. With this simple material they have created many dishes or snacks by dent of their imagination. Tofu curd and fried dried milk cake are the cases in point. Those negative factors which set soybeans in an awkward position such as trypsin inhibitor, unabsorbable sugar and phytic acid are all eliminated in the transformation.
In the ultimate analysis, tofu provides a way for Chinese people to express their adaptability. All this at the same time attaches a high value on soybeans. Transformation as a traditional means not only brings about dainties to the public but also reveals the wisdom of Chinese people in cuisine.