Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a food cultivated by coagulating soy
milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It
is a component in East Asian and
Southeast Asian cuisines.
be soft, firm, or extra firm.
Tofu has a subtle flavor and can be used
in savory and sweet dishes. It is often seasoned or marinated to suit
Tofu has a low calorie count and relatively large amounts of protein.
It is high in iron, and it can have a high calcium or magnesium
content, depending on the coagulants used in manufacturing (e.g.
calcium chloride, calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate).
2.1 Theories of origin
2.4 Southeast Asia
2.5 Outside Asia
3.1 Salt coagulants
3.2 Acid coagulants
3.3 Enzyme coagulants
4.1 Fresh tofu
4.1.1 Extra soft
4.1.4 Extra firm
4.2 Processed tofu
4.3.2 Soy pulp
4.4 Tofu-like foods
4.4.3 Egg tofu
5.7 Outside East and Southeast Asia
Nutrition and health
Traditional Chinese medicine claims
9.1.1 Denaturation of glycinin and Β-conglycinin
11 See also
13 External links
The English term "tofu" comes from Japanese tōfu (豆腐), borrowed
from the original Chinese equivalent (豆腐 dòufu (pinyin)),
literally "bean" (豆) + "curdled" or "fermented" (腐).
A reference to the word "towfu" exists in a letter dated 1770 from the
English merchant James Flint to American statesman and scientist
Benjamin Franklin. This is believed to be the first documented usage
of the word in English.
The term "bean curd(s)" for tofu has been used in the United States
since at least 1840. It is not frequently used outside of the United
Australia or New Zealand.
Tofu-making was first recorded during the Chinese
Han dynasty some
2,000 years ago. Chinese legend ascribes its invention to prince
Liu An (179–122 BC).
Tofu and its production technique were
introduced into Korea[when?] and then Japan during the Nara
period (710–794). Some scholars believe tofu arrived in Vietnam
during the 10th and 11th centuries. It spread into other parts of
Southeast Asia as well. This spread probably coincided with the
Buddhism because it is an important source of protein in the
vegetarian diet of East Asian Buddhism.
Li Shizhen in the Ming
Dynasty described a method of making tofu in the Compendium of Materia
The rise in acceptance of tofu likely coincided with that of Buddhism,
as it is an important source of proteins in that religion's vegetarian
diet. Since then, tofu has become a staple in many countries,
including Vietnam, Thailand, and Korea, with subtle regional
variations in production methods, texture, flavor, and usage.
Theories of origin
The most commonly held of the three theories of tofu's origin
maintains that tofu was invented in northern
China around 164 BC by
Lord Liu An, a
Han Dynasty prince. Although this is possible, the
paucity of concrete information about this period makes it difficult
to conclusively determine whether
Liu An himself invented the method
for making tofu. In Chinese history, important inventions were often
attributed to important leaders and figures of the time. In 1960,
a stone mural unearthed from an Eastern
Han dynasty tomb provided
support for the theory of Han origin of tofu; however, some scholars
maintained that the tofu in
Han dynasty was rudimentary, and lacked
the firmness and taste of real tofu.
Another theory states that the production method for tofu was
discovered accidentally when a slurry of boiled, ground soybeans was
mixed with impure sea salt. Such sea salt would probably have
contained calcium and magnesium salts, allowing the soy mixture to
curdle and produce a tofu-like gel. Korean sundubu (soft tofu) and
Okinawan tofu is still produced in a similar manner, traditionally
using seawater as a coagulant. This may possibly have been the way
tofu was discovered, since soy milk has been eaten as a savory soup in
ancient as well as modern times. Its technical plausibility
notwithstanding, there is little evidence to prove or disprove that
tofu production originated in this way.
The last group of theories maintains that the ancient Chinese learned
the method for curdling soy milk by emulating the milk curdling
techniques of the Mongolians or East Indians. Despite their advanced
culture, no technology or knowledge of culturing and processing milk
products existed within ancient Chinese society. (They did not seek
such technology, probably because of the Confucian taboo on fermented
dairy products and other so-called "barbarian foodstuffs".)[citation
needed] The primary evidence for this theory is the etymological
similarity between the Chinese term for Mongolian fermented milk
(rufu, which literally means "milk curdled") and the term doufu
("beans curdled") or tofu. Although intriguing and possible, there is
no evidence to substantiate this theory beyond academic
See also: List of Chinese inventions
A form of tofu may have been discovered during the Han dynasty
(220 BC – AD 220), but it did not become a popular food in
China until the
Song dynasty (960–1279).
In China, tofu is traditionally used as a food offering when visiting
the graves of deceased relatives. It is claimed that the spirits (or
ghosts) have long lost their chins and jaws, so that only tofu is soft
enough for them to eat. Before refrigeration was available in China,
tofu was often only sold during wintertime, since tofu did not spoil
as easily in cold weather. During the warmer months, any leftover tofu
would be spoiled if left for more than a day. Chinese war hero Guan Yu
used to be a tofu maker before he enlisted in the army. Chinese
martial arts expert and hero
Yim Wing-chun was a celebrated tofu maker
in her village. (
Tofu as such plays a part in a 1994 movie about her
life, Wing Chun.)
Tofu was introduced to
Japan in the
Nara period (late 8th century) by
Zen Buddhist monks, who at first called it "Chinese curd" (唐腐,
tōfu). Much of tofu's early use in Asia was as a vegetarian
substitute for meat and fish by Buddhist monks, especially in Zen
The earliest document concerning tofu in
Japan shows that the dish was
served as an offering at the
Kasuga Shrine in Nara in 1183. The
Tofu Hyakuchin (豆腐百珍 Dòufu Bǎizhēn), published in the
Edo period, lists 100 recipes for cooking tofu.
In Southeast Asia, tofu was introduced to the region by Chinese
immigrants from sea-faring Fujian provinces, as evident from the fact
that many countries in
Southeast Asia refer to tofu using the Min Nan
Chinese pronunciations for either soft and firm tofu, or "tāu-hū"
and "tāu-goan" respectively. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore,
Myanmar and the Philippines, tofu is widely
available and used in many local dishes.
Tofu is called tahu in Indonesia, and Indonesian dishes such as tahu
sumbat, taugeh tahu, asinan, siomay and some curries, often add slices
of tofu as an ingredient. In addition, tahu goreng, tahu isi and tahu
sumedang are popular fried tofu snacks.
Tofu is called tauhu in
Malaysia and Singapore. Malaysian and
Singaporean Indians use tofu in their cuisine, such as in Indian mee
goreng, and rojak pasembor. The strait peranakan cuisine often uses
tofu, such as in Penang curry noodles and laksa. The makers of tofu in
these countries were originally Chinese but tofu now is also made by
non-Chinese. Indonesia, Thailand,
Malaysia and the
major producers of tofu and have plants in many municipalities.
Singapore imports its tofu from its neighboring country,
Tofu in the
Philippines is essential to the daily diet, as taho,
widely eaten as breakfast, or tokwa (a dry fried variation), which is
a staple or alternative to meat in main meals and in numerous regional
Tofu was introduced to the archipelago in the 10th to 13th
centuries by Song Chinese mariners and merchants, along with many
other foods that became staples of the
Philippine diet. The use and
production of tofu were first limited to urban centres with
influential Chinese minorities, such as Cebu or Tondo, but quickly
spread to even remote native villages and islands, long before the
Spanish arrival in the 17th century.
Benjamin Franklin was the first American to mention tofu in a 1770
letter to John Bartram. Franklin, who discovered it during a trip to
London, included a few soybeans and referred to it as "cheese" from
China. The first tofu company in the United States was established
in 1878. In 1908 Li Yuying, a Chinese anarchist and a vegetarian
with a French degree in agriculture and biology, opened a soy factory,
the Usine de la Caséo-Sojaïne, which was the world's first soy dairy
and the first factory in France to manufacture and sell beancurd.
However, tofu was not well known to most Westerners before the middle
of the 20th century. With increased cultural contact between the West
and East Asia and growing interest in vegetarianism, knowledge of tofu
has become widespread. Numerous types of pre-flavored tofu can be
found in many supermarket chains throughout the West. It is also used
by many vegans and vegetarians as a means to gain protein without
consuming meat products.
Dubu-teul (tofu mould) from Korea
Dubu-kal (tofu knife) from Korea
Regardless of the product or scale of the production, the production
of tofu essentially consists of
the preparation of soymilk
the coagulation of the soymilk to form curds
the pressing of the soybean curds to form tofu cakes.
It is in this sense analogous to the production of dairy cheese by
coagulating the milk of dairy animals to form curds and pressing and
aging the curds to form cheese. The typical tofu making procedures are
cleaning, soaking, grinding beans in water, filtering, boiling,
coagulation, and pressing.
Coagulation of the protein and oil (emulsion) suspended in the boiled
soy milk is the most important step in the production of tofu. This
process is accomplished with the aid of coagulants. In the case of
salts, the positively charged ion in the particular salt reacts with
the various protein in the milk causing the proteins to precipitate
with the oil to form a curd. Coagulation of the soymilk is the most
important step in tofu making process but is complicated as the
process depends on complex interactions with many variables including
the variety and percentage of protein in the soybeans used, slurry
cooking temperature, coagulation temperature, and more factors
relating to the processing.
Two types of coagulants (salts and acids) are used commercially.
Calcium sulfate (gypsum): The traditional and most widely used
coagulant to produce Chinese-style tofu, it produces a tofu that is
tender but slightly brittle in texture. The coagulant itself has no
perceivable taste. Also known as gypsum, calcium sulfate is quarried
from geological deposits and no chemical processing or refining is
needed, making it the cheapest coagulant used in tofu production. When
used in production, the coagulation reaction is slower due to its low
solubility, forming a smooth, more gelatinous network with relatively
high water content and soft texture. Use of this coagulant also
makes a tofu that is rich in calcium. As such, many tofu manufacturers
choose to use this coagulant to be able to market their tofu as a good
source of dietary calcium.
Nigari salts or Lushui ( Traditional: 鹵水, 滷水;
Simplified: 卤水, lǔshuǐ) –
Magnesium chloride and calcium
chloride: Both of these salts are highly soluble in water and affect
soy protein in the same way, whereas gypsum is only very slightly
soluble in water and acts differently in soy protein precipitation,
the basis of tofu formation. These are the coagulants used to make
tofu with a smooth and tender texture. In Japan, a white powder called
nigari, which consists primarily of magnesium chloride, is produced
from seawater after the sodium chloride is removed and the water
evaporated. Depending on its production method, nigari/Lushui may also
contain small quantities of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt), potassium
chloride, calcium chloride, and trace amounts of other naturally
occurring salts. Although the term nigari is derived from nigai, the
Japanese word for "bitter," neither nigari nor pure magnesium chloride
imparts a perceivable taste to the finished tofu.
Calcium chloride is
not found in seawater in high percentages, therefore not regarded as
nigari but is used extensively in the United States as it is the only
coagulant that gives tofu an addition of calcium as a mineral and due
to its flavor and low cost. Fresh clean seawater itself can
also be used as a coagulant.
Glucono delta-lactone (GDL): A naturally occurring organic acid also
used in cheese making, this coagulant produces a very fine textured
tofu that is almost jelly-like. It is used especially for "silken" and
softer tofus, and confers an almost imperceptible sour taste to the
finished product. It is commonly used together with calcium
sulfate to give soft tofu a smooth tender texture.
Other edible acids: Though they can affect the taste of the tofu more,
and vary in density and texture, acids such as acetic acid (vinegar)
and citric acid (such as lemon juice), can also be used to coagulate
soy milk and produce tofu.
Among enzymes that have been shown to produce tofu are papain, and
alkaline and neutral proteases from microorganisms. In the case of
papain, the enzyme-to-substrate ratio, by weight, was held constant at
1:400. An aliquot of 1% crude papain was added to "uncooked" soy milk
at room temperature and heated to 90–100 °C
(194–212 °F). Papain, moreover, has been studied as a
gelling agent to produce "instant tofu" from soy protein isolate and
soy glycinin (11S) protein.
Contemporary tofu manufacturers may choose to use one or more of these
coagulants, since each plays a role in producing a desired texture in
the finished tofu. Different textures result from different pore
sizes and other microscopic features in tofu produced using each
coagulant. The coagulant mixture is dissolved into water, and the
solution is then stirred into boiled soy milk until the mixture
curdles into a soft gel.
Coagulants are typically added at concentrations between 1.5 and 5.0
g/kg. In all coagulants consisting of calcium or magnesium salts, the
positive double bonded ions of the calcium or magnesium are
responsible for the coagulating soy proteins and become part of the
tofu thereby enhancing its nutritional value. Only 1 part per 1000 of
the tofu eaten is coagulant, most react with soy protein and are
broken down into ions and the nonreactive portion dissolve in the whey
The curds are processed differently depending on the form of tofu that
is being manufactured. For soft silken tofu (嫩豆腐; nèn dòufu)
or tofu flower (豆花, dòuhuā) the soy milk is curdled directly in
the tofu's selling package. For standard firm Asian tofu, the soy curd
is cut and strained of excess liquid using cheese cloth or muslin and
then lightly pressed to produce a soft cake. Firmer tofus, such as
Asian dry tofu (豆干) or Western types of tofu, are further pressed
to remove even more liquid. In Vietnam, the curd is strained and
molded in a square mold, and the end product is called đậu khuôn
(molded bean) or đậu phụ (one of the Vietnamese ways to pronounce
the Chinese dòufu). The tofu curds are allowed to cool and become
firm. The finished tofu can then be cut into pieces, flavored or
further processed.
Although tartness is sometimes desired in dessert tofu, the acid used
in flavoring is usually not the primary coagulant, since concentration
sufficiently high to induce coagulation negatively affects the flavor
or texture of the resulting tofu. A sour taste in tofu and a slight
cloudiness in its storing liquid is also usually an indication of
bacterial growth and, hence, spoilage.
The whiteness of tofu is ultimately determined by the soybean variety,
soybean protein composition and degree of aggregation of the tofu gel
network. The yellowish beige color of soybeans is due to the color
compounds including anthocyanin, isoflavones and polyphenol compounds
therefore the soybean variety used can predict the color of the final
tofu product. Ways to reduce the yellow color include reducing
isoflavone content by changing the pH of the soymilk solution used in
the production of tofu so that they precipitate out and are removed
during the extraction of okara. The opacity of tofu gel and
off-white color typical of standard uncooked firm tofu is due to the
scattering of light by the colloidal particles of the tofu. The
addition of higher levels of calcium salts and high protein content
contributes to forming a denser and more aggregated gel network which
disperses more light resulting a tofu with a whiter gel
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting
curds. Although pre-made soy milk may be used, some tofu producers
make their own soy milk by soaking, grinding, boiling and straining
dried (or, less commonly, fresh) soybeans.
Coagulation of the protein and oil (emulsion) suspended in the boiled
soy milk is the most important step in the production of tofu. This
process is accomplished with the aid of coagulants. Two types of
coagulants (salts and acids) are used commercially.
Tofu flavor is generally described as bland, which is the taste
desired by customers in North America while a more beany flavor is
preferred in East Asia. The beany or bland taste is generated during
the grinding and cooking process in production, and either a “hot
grind” or a “cold grind” can be implemented to influence the
taste in line with taste preference. The hot grind method reduces the
beany flavor due to the inactivation of the lipoxygenase enzyme in soy
protein that is known to generate off flavors, which makes a tofu that
is “bland,” whereas in the cold grind the enzyme is still present
which produces the aldehyde, alcohol and ester volatile compounds that
create the beany notes of some tofu.
A wide variety of tofu is available in both Western and Eastern
markets. Despite the range of options, tofu products can be split into
two main categories: 'fresh tofu', which is produced directly from soy
milk, and 'processed tofu', which is produced from fresh tofu. Tofu
production also creates important by-products that are used in various
Depending on the amount of water that is extracted from the tofu
curds, fresh tofu can be divided into four main varieties: extra soft,
soft (or silken), firm, and extra firm. Fresh tofu is usually sold
completely immersed in water to maintain its moisture content.
Sun-dubu (extra soft tofu)
Extra soft tofu
Extra soft tofu is called sun-dubu (순두부; "mild tofu") in Korean.
Soy milk is mixed with seawater or saline water made with sea salt, so
that it curdles. The curds remain loose and soft. Freshly made
sun-dubu is eaten boiled with little to no seasoning. Manufactured
sundubu is usually sold in tubes. It is also the main ingredient in
sundubu-jjigae (순두부찌개; "soft tofu stew").
Sun-dubu from Chodang Dubu Village in Gangneung, Gangwon Province is
Although sun in sun-dubu doesn't have Sino-Korean origin, sun-dubu
is often translated into Chinese and Japanese using the Chinese
character 純, whose Korean pronunciation is sun and the meaning is
"pure". Thus in China, sun-dubu is called chún dòufu (純豆腐;
"pure tofu"), and in Japan, it is called jun-tōfu (純豆腐) or
Alternative Chinese name
Soft tofu, also known as "silken tofu", is called nèn dòufu
(嫩豆腐; "soft tofu") or huá dòufu (滑豆腐, "smooth tofu") in
Chinese, kinugoshi tōfu (絹漉し豆腐; "silk-filtered tofu") in
Japanese, and yeon-dubu (연두부; 軟豆腐; "soft tofu") in Korean.
It is undrained, unpressed tofu that contains the high moisture
content. Silken tofu is produced by coagulating soy milk without
curdling it. Silken tofu is available in several
consistencies, including "soft" and "firm", but all silken tofu is
more delicate than regular firm tofu (pressed tofu) and it has
different culinary uses. In
Japan and Korea, traditional soft tofu
is made with seawater. Silken tofu is a versatile,
reliable substitute for dairy products and eggs, especially for
smoothies and baked desserts.
Douhua (豆花, dòuhuā or 豆腐花, dòufuhuā in Chinese), or tofu
brain (豆腐腦 or 豆腐脑, dòufunaǒ in Chinese) is often eaten
as a dessert, but sometimes salty pickles or hot sauce are added
instead. This is a type of soft tofu with an even higher moisture
content. Because it is very difficult to pick up with chopsticks, it
is generally eaten with a spoon. With the addition of flavorings such
as finely chopped spring onions, dried shrimp, soy sauce, or chilli
sauce, douhua is a popular breakfast dish across China. In Malaysia,
douhua is usually served warm with white or dark (palm) sugar syrup,
or served cold with longans.
Some variation exists among soft tofus. Black douhua (黑豆花,
hēidòuhuā) is a type of silken tofu made from black soybeans, which
is usually made into dòuhuā (豆花) rather than firm or dry tofu.
The texture of black bean tofu is slightly more gelatinous than
regular douhua and the color is greyish in tone. This type of tofu is
eaten for its earthy "black bean taste."
Edamame tofu is a Japanese
variety of kinugoshi tōfu made from edamame (fresh green soybeans);
it is pale green in color and often studded with whole edamame.
Firm tofu (called 老豆腐 lǎo dòufu in Chinese; 木綿豆腐,
momen-dōfu in Japanese, "cotton tofu"; 모두부, mo-dubu in Korean):
Although drained and pressed, this form of fresh tofu still contains a
great amount of moisture. It has the firmness of raw meat and bounces
back readily when pressed. The texture of the inside of the tofu is
similar to that of a firm custard. The skin of this form of tofu has
the pattern of the muslin used to drain it and the outside is slightly
more resistant to damage than the inside. It can be picked up easily
In some places in Japan, a very firm type of momen-dōfu is eaten,
called ishi-dōfu (石豆腐, "stone tofu") in parts of Ishikawa, or
iwa-dōfu (岩豆腐, "rock tofu") in
Gokayama in the Toyama
Prefecture and in Iya in the prefecture of Tokushima. Due to their
firmness, some of these types of tofu can be tied by rope and
carried. These types of firm tofu are produced with
seawater instead of nigari (magnesium chloride), or using concentrated
soy milk. Some of them are squeezed to eliminate excess moisture by
using heavy weights. These products are produced in areas where
travelling is inconvenient, such as remote islands, mountain villages,
and heavy snowfall areas.
Dòugān (extra firm tofu)
Extra firm tofu
Dòu gān (豆干, literally "dry tofu" in Chinese) is an extra firm
variety of tofu where a large amount of liquid has been pressed out.
Dòu gān contains the least amount of moisture of all fresh tofu and
has the firmness of fully cooked meat and a somewhat rubbery feel
similar to that of paneer. When sliced thinly, this tofu can be
crumbled easily. The skin of this form of tofu has the pattern of the
muslin used to drain and press it. Western firm tofu is milled and
reformed after pressing and sometimes lacks the skin with its cloth
patterning. One variety of dried tofu is pressed especially flat and
sliced into long strings with a cross section smaller than 2 mm
× 2 mm. Shredded dried tofu (豆干絲, dòugānsī in Chinese,
or simply 干絲, gānsī), which looks like loose cooked noodles, can
be served cold, stir-fried, or similar in style to Japanese
Many forms of processed tofu exist, due to the varied ways in which
fresh tofu can be used. Some of these techniques probably[citation
needed] originate from the need to preserve tofu before the days of
refrigeration, or to increase its shelf life and longevity. Other
production techniques are employed to create tofus with unique
textures and flavors.
Pickled tofu (豆腐乳 in Chinese, pinyin: dòufurǔ, or 腐乳
fŭrŭ; chao in Vietnamese): Also called "preserved tofu" or
"fermented tofu", consists of cubes of dried tofu that have been
allowed to fully air-dry under hay and slowly ferment with the help of
aerial bacteria. The dry fermented tofu is then soaked in salt
water, Chinese wine, vinegar, and minced chiles, or in a unique
mixture of whole rice, bean paste, and soybeans. In the case of red
pickled tofu (紅豆腐乳 in Chinese, Pinyin: hóng dòufurǔ), red
yeast rice (cultivated with Monascus purpureus) is added for
color. In Japan, pickled tofu with miso paste is called "tofu no
misodzuke," which is a traditional preserved food in Kumamoto. In
Okinawa, pickled and fermented tofu is called "tofuyo"(豆腐餻). It
is made from "Shima-doufu" (an Okinawan variety of large and firm
tofu). It is fermented and matured with koji mold, red koji mold, and
Stinky tofu (臭豆腐 in Chinese, Pinyin: chòudòufu): A soft tofu
that has been fermented in a unique vegetable and fish brine. The
blocks of tofu smell strongly of certain pungent cheeses, or even
rotten food. Despite its strong odor, the flavor and texture of stinky
tofu is appreciated by aficionados, who describe it as delightful. The
texture of this tofu is similar to the soft Asian tofu from which it
is made. The rind that stinky tofu develops from frying is said to be
especially crisp, and is usually served with soy sauce, sweet sauce,
or hot sauce.
Thawed and sliced frozen tofu
Koya-dofu after soaking in water.
Thousand-layer tofu (千葉豆腐, qiānyè dòufu, literally
"thousand-layer tofu," or 凍豆腐 dòngdòufu, 冰豆腐 bīngdòufu
in Chinese, both meaning "frozen tofu"): When tofu is frozen, the
large ice crystals that develop within it result in the formation of
large cavities that appear to be layered. Frozen tofu takes on a
yellowish hue in the freezing process. Thousand-layer tofu originates
Jiangnan regions of
China and is commonly made at home from soft
tofu, although it is also commercially sold as a specialty in Hong
Kong, Taiwan, and anywhere else
Jiangnan people can be found. It's
regularly paired with tatsoi as a winter dish. This tofu is defrosted
and sometimes pressed to remove moisture prior to use.
Two kinds of freeze-dried tofu are produced in Japan. They are usually
rehydrated by being soaked in water prior to consumption. In their
dehydrated state they do not require refrigeration.
Koya tofu (also known as shimidofu) is made using nigari.
Kori tofu (literally "frozen tofu") is freeze-dried.
Koya-dofu (kōya-dōfu, 高野豆腐 in Japanese): The name comes from
Mount Kōya, a center of Japanese
Buddhism famed for its shōjin
ryōri, or traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. It is sold in
freeze-dried blocks or cubes in Japanese markets. Since it is dried,
it can be preserved long term. It must be soaked in water before
eating, and is typically simmered in dashi, sake or mirin and soy
sauce. In shōjin ryōri, vegetarian kombu dashi, made from seaweed,
is used. When prepared in the usual manner, it has a spongy texture
and mildly sweet or savory flavor (the taste and flavor depending on
what soup or cooking stock it was simmered in). A similar form of
freeze-dried tofu, in smaller pieces, is found in instant soups (such
as miso soup), in which the toppings are freeze-dried and stored in
Tofu production creates some edible by-products. Food products are
made from the protein-oil film or "skin" that forms over the surface
of boiling soy milk in an open shallow pan. The solids left over from
pressing soy milk are called okara.
Tofu skin is produced when soy milk is boiled in an open, shallow pan,
thus producing a film or skin composed primarily of a soy
protein-lipid complex on the liquid surface. The films are collected
and dried into yellowish sheets known as soy milk skin (腐皮, fǔpí
in Chinese; 湯葉, yuba in Japanese). Its approximate composition is:
50–55% protein, 24–26% lipids (fat), 12% carbohydrate, 3% ash, and
The skin can also be bunched up into a stick form and dried into a
product known as "tofu bamboo" (腐竹, fǔ zhú in Chinese; phù
trúc in Vietnamese; kusatake, Japanese), or into myriad other forms.
Since tofu skin has a soft yet rubbery texture, it is folded or shaped
into different forms and cooked further to imitate meat in vegan
Some factories dedicate their production to tofu skin and other soy
Tofu skin is commonly sold in the form of dried leaves or sheets.
Main article: Okara (food)
Okara (from the Japanese, おから, okara; known as 雪花菜,
xuěhuācài, in Chinese, lit. "snowflake vegetable"; 豆腐渣,
dòufuzhā, also Chinese, lit. "tofu sediment/residue"; and 콩비지,
kongbiji, in Korean), is a tofu by-product sometimes known in the west
as "soy pulp" or "tofu lees", consisting of the fiber, protein,
and starch left over when soy milk has been extracted from ground
soaked soybeans. Although it is mainly used as animal feed in most
tofu producing cultures, it is sometimes used in Japanese and Korean
cuisines, such as in the Korean stew kongbiji jjigae
(콩비지찌개). It is also an ingredient for the vegetarian burgers
produced in many Western nations.
The term tofu is used by extension for similarly textured curdled
dishes that do not use soy products, such as "almond tofu" (almond
jelly), tamago-dōfu (ja) (egg), goma-dōfu (ja) (sesame),
or peanut tofu (Chinese 落花生豆腐 luòhuāshēng dòufu and
Okinawan jīmāmi-dōfu (ja)).
Due to their Asian origins and their textures, many food items are
called "tofu" even though their production processes are not
technically similar. For instance, many sweet almond tofus are
actually gelatinous desserts hardened using agar or gelatin. Some
foods, such as Burmese tofu, are not coagulated from the "milk" of the
legume but rather set in a manner similar to soft polenta, Korean muk,
or the jidou liangfen of
Yunnan province of Southwest China.
Almond tofu" (Chinese: 杏仁豆腐 xìngrén dòufu; Japanese:
annindōfu) is a milky white and gelatinous resembling tofu, but it
does not use soy products or soy milk and is hardened with agar. A
similar dessert made with coconut milk or mango juices may
occasionally be referred to as "coconut tofu" or "mango tofu",
although such names are also given to hot dishes that use soy tofu and
coconut or mango in the recipe.
Main article: Burmese tofu
Burmese tofu (to hpu in Burmese) is a legume product made from besan
(chana dal) flour; the Shan variety uses yellow split pea flour
instead. Both types are yellow in color and generally found only in
Myanmar, though the Burman variety is also available in some overseas
restaurants serving Burmese cuisine.
Burmese tofu may be fried as
fritters cut into rectangular or triangular shapes.
A variety called hsan to hpu (or hsan ta hpo in Shan regions) is made
from rice flour (called hsan hmont or mont hmont) and is white in
color with the same consistency as yellow
Burmese tofu when set. It is
eaten as a salad in the same manner as yellow tofu.
Egg tofu (ja) (Japanese: 玉子豆腐, 卵豆腐, tamagodōfu)
(Chinese: 蛋豆腐, dàn dòufu; often called 日本豆腐, rìbĕn
dòufu, lit. "
Japan bean curd") is the main type of savory flavored
tofu. Whole beaten eggs are combined with dashi, poured into molds,
and cooked in a steamer (cf. chawanmushi). This tofu has a pale golden
color that can be attributed to the addition of eggs and,
occasionally, food coloring. This tofu has a fuller texture and flavor
than silken tofu, which can be attributed to the presence of egg fat
and protein. Plain "dried tofu" can be flavored by stewing in soy
sauce (滷) to make soy-sauce tofu. It is quite common to see tofu
sold in market in this soy-sauce stewed form.
Traditional Japanese tofu is made of eggs and some typical Japanese
kelp fish soup. Egg liquid should be put in the stewed soup.
Nowadays,Japanese tofu is made of eggs,water, vegetable protein and
Japanese tofu was invented in
Japan in Edo period.The book
《万宝料理秘密箱》written in 1785 recorded how to make
Japanese tofu.Later Japanese tofu entered southeast Asia,and was led
China in 1995 from Malaysia.At first, Japanese tofu was only
provided in upscale restaurants. As time went by,most Chinese could
afford Japanese tofu,which became a normal dish at everybody’s
100 grams Japanese tofu has 17 mg calcium,24 mg magnesium
and 5 mg protein while 100 grams tofu has 138 mg
calcium,63 mg magnesium and 12.2 mg protein. Compared with
tofu,Japanese tofu’s nutrition value is lower.
Three Delicacies Japanese Tofu
Ingredient: Japanese tofu,mushroom,fungus,corn kernel,pea,fish
Shrimp Japanese Tofu
Japanese tofu in ketchup
Ingredient: Japanese tofu,canned pineapple,onion,red bell pepper,green
bell pepper,egg liquid,flour,water,salt,pepper,sugar,white
Teppanyaki Japanese Tofu
Japanese fish-flavored tofu
Ingredient: Japanese tofu,tomatoes,starch,thick broad-bean
sauce,pepper,salt,sugar,vinegar,light soy sauce,chopped green onion
In Okinawa, Japan, jīmāmi-dōfu (ja) is made in a process
similar to that used for sesame tofu. A peanut milk (made by crushing
raw peanuts, adding water and straining) is combined with starch
(usually sweet potato known locally as umukuji or umukashi
(芋澱粉)) and heated until curdling occurs.
The Chinese equivalent is 落花生豆腐 luòhuāshēng dòufu.
The tofu known as goma-dōfu (ja) is made by grinding sesame into
a smooth paste, combining it with liquid and kudzu starch, and heating
it until curdling occurs. It is often served chilled as hiyayakko.
Tofu has very little flavor or smell of its own. Consequently, tofu
can be prepared either in savory or sweet dishes, acting as a bland
background for presenting the flavors of the other ingredients used.
As a method of flavoring it is often marinated in soy sauce, chilis,
sesame oil, etc.
In Asian cooking, tofu is eaten in a myriad of ways, including raw,
stewed, stir-fried, in soup, cooked in sauce, or stuffed with
fillings. The idea of using tofu as a meat substitute is not common in
Many Chinese tofu dishes such as jiācháng dòufu (家常豆腐) and
mápó dòufú (麻婆豆腐) include meat.
In Chinese cuisine, Dòuhuā (豆花) is served with toppings such as
boiled peanuts, azuki beans, cooked oatmeal, tapioca, mung beans, or a
syrup flavored with ginger or almond. During the summer, "dòuhuā" is
served with crushed ice; in the winter, it is served warm. In many
parts of China, fresh tofu is eaten with soy sauce or further flavored
with katsuobushi shavings, century eggs (皮蛋 pídàn), and sesame
With the exception of the softest tofus, all forms of tofu can be
fried. Thin and soft varieties of tofu are deep fried in oil until
they are light and airy in their core 豆泡 dòupào, 豆腐泡
dòufupào, 油豆腐 yóudòufu, or 豆卜 dòubǔ in Chinese,
literally "bean bubble," describing the shape of the fried tofu as a
Tofus such as firm Asian and dòu gān (Chinese dry tofu), with their
lower moisture content, are cut into bite-sized cubes or triangles and
deep fried until they develop a golden-brown, crispy surface
(炸豆腐 in Chinese, zhádòufu, lit. "fried tofu"). These may be
eaten on their own or with a light sauce, or further cooked in
liquids; they are also added to hot pot dishes or included as part of
the vegetarian dish called luohan zhai.
Depending on the type of tofu used, the texture of deep fried tofu may
range from crispy on the outside and custardy on the inside, to puffed
up like a plain doughnut. The former is usually eaten plain in Chinese
cuisine with garlic soy sauce, while the latter is either stuffed with
fish paste to make
Yong Tau Foo
Yong Tau Foo or cooked in soups. In Taiwan,
fried tofu is made into a dish called "A-gei", which consists of a
fried aburage tofu package stuffed with noodles and capped with
A spicy Sichuan preparation using firm Asian tofu is mápó dòufu
(麻婆豆腐). It involves braised tofu in a beef, chili, and
fermented bean paste sauce. A vegetarian version is known as málà
dòufu (麻辣豆腐).
Dried tofu is usually not eaten raw but first stewed in a mixture of
soy sauce and spices. Some types of dried tofu are
pre-seasoned with special blends of spices, so that the tofu may
either be called "five-spice tofu" (五香豆腐 wǔxiāng dòufu) or
"soy sauce stewed tofu" (鹵水豆腐 lǔshuǐ dòufu). Dried tofu is
typically served thinly sliced with chopped green onions or with
slices of meat for added flavor. Most dried tofu is sold after it has
been fried or pre-stewed by tofu vendors.[dubious – discuss]
Tofu bamboos are often used in lamb stew or in a dessert soup. Tofu
skins are often used as wrappers in dim sum.
Freeze-dried tofu and frozen tofu are rehydrated and enjoyed in savory
soups. These products are often taken along on camping trips since a
small bag of them can provide protein for many days.
At Qufu, the home town of Confucius, smoked tofu is a popular dish.
Pickled tofu is commonly used in small amounts together with its
soaking liquid to flavor stir-fried or braised vegetable dishes
(particularly leafy green vegetables like water spinach). It is often
eaten directly as a condiment with rice or congee.
Chinese soft tofu dish, pidan doufu
Prepared "dried" tofu threads (干絲, gānsī
chòu dòufu is a very pungent type of tofu
Tofu and potatoes grilled at a street stall in Yuanyang, Yunnan
Douhua (豆花), is a soft tofu dish. The fresh tofu is served warm
and dressed with sweet syrup. Lamma Island, Hong Kong.
Smoked tofu at The House of Confucius in Qufu
In Indonesia, tofu is called tahu, and the popular fried tofu is tahu
goreng, tahu isi or tahu sumedang.
A common cooking technique in many parts of East and Southeast Asia
involves deep frying tofu in vegetable oil, sunflower oil, or canola
oil with varied results. In Indonesia, it is usually fried in palm
oil. Although tofu is often sold preprocessed into fried items,
pre-fried tofu is seldom eaten directly and requires additional
Bacem is a method of cooking tofu originating in Java, Indonesia. The
tofu is boiled in coconut water, mixed with lengkuas (galangal),
Indonesian bay leaves, coriander, shallot, garlic, tamarind and palm
sugar. After the spicy coconut water has completely evaporated, the
tofu is fried until it is golden brown. The result is sweet, spicy,
and crisp. This cooked tofu variant is commonly known as tahu bacem in
Indonesian. Tahu bacem is commonly prepared along with tempeh and
Tahu goreng (fried tofu) served on cooked rice
In Japan, a common lunch in the summer months is hiyayakko (冷奴),
silken or firm Asian tofu served with freshly grated ginger, green
onions, or katsuobushi shavings with soy sauce. In the winter, tofu is
frequently eaten as "yudofu," which is simmered in a clay pot with
vegetables (ex:chinese cabbage, green onion, etc.) using konbu dashi.
This deep fried tofu is called
Atsuage (厚揚げ) or Namaage
(生揚げ) in Japan. The thinner variety, called Aburaage
(油揚げ), develops a tofu pouch often used for Inari-sushi.
In Japan, cubes of lightly coated and fried tofu topped with a kombu
dashi-based sauce are called agedashi-dofu (揚げ出し豆腐). Soft
tofu that has been thinly sliced and deep fried, known as aburage in
Japan and yubu (유부) in Korea, is commonly blanched, seasoned with
soy sauce and mirin and served in dishes such as kitsune udon.
Soft tofu can also be broken up or mashed and mixed with raw
ingredients prior to being cooked. For example, Japanese ganmodoki is
a mixture of chopped vegetables and mashed tofu. The mixture is bound
together with starch and deep fried. Chinese families sometimes make a
steamed meatloaf or meatball dish from equal parts of coarsely mashed
tofu and ground pork.
Japanese 'miso soup', stocks with miso paste, is frequently made with
Japanese-style "silken tofu" with soy sauce and a decorative carrot
Yudofu, or tofu in hot water
Dubu plays an important part in Korean cuisine.
Tofu is often
pan-fried and served as banchan with dipping sauce. Cubes of firm
tofu can also be seasoned with soy sauce, garlic, and other
ingredients before pan-fried.
Tofu cubes simmered with similar spicy
seasoning is called dubu-jorim. Dubu-kimchi, features blanched
tofu served in rectangular slices around the edges of a plate with
pan-fried kimchi is a popular anju (food acompnying alcoholic
drink). Soft, unpressed sun-dubu is used as the main ingredient of
sundubu-jjigae (soft tofu stew), while other soups and stews such
as doenjang-guk (soybean paste soup), doenjang-jjigae (soybean paste
stew), and kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew) tend to have diced firm tofu in
it. As in many other Asian countries, tofu is also enjoyed in a hot
pot dish called dubu-jeongol (tofu hot pot).
Pan-fried tofu served with seasoned soy sauce for dipping
Dubu-kimchi (blanched tofu served with stir-fried kimchi)
Boiled sun-dubu (extra soft tofu) served in ttukbaegi
Sundubu-jjigae (spicy soft tofu stew)
Dallae-doenjang-guk (soybean paste soup with wild chives and tofu)
Chilled tofu served with soy sauce seasonings
Crumbled tofu and mashed broccoli salad
In the Philippines, the sweet delicacy taho is made of fresh tofu with
brown sugar syrup and sago. The Malaysian and Singaporean version of
taho or douhua is called tofufa" or "taufufa. Warm soft tofu is served
in slices (created by scooping it from a wooden bucket with a flat
spoon) in a bowl with either pandan-flavored sugar syrup or palm sugar
In Vietnam, dòuhuā, pronounced đậu hủ, is a variety of soft
tofu made and carried around in an earthenware jar. It is served by
being scooped into a bowl with a very shallow and flat spoon, and it
is eaten together with either powdered sugar and lime juice or a
ginger-flavored syrup. It is generally eaten hot, also in summer.
Outside East and Southeast Asia
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Generally, the firmer styles of tofu are used for kebabs, mock meats,
and dishes requiring a consistency that holds together, while the
softer styles can be used for desserts, soups, shakes, and sauces.
Firm Western tofu types can be barbecued, since they hold together on
a barbecue grill. These types are usually marinated overnight as the
marinade does not easily penetrate the entire block of tofu
(techniques to increase penetration of marinades are stabbing
repeatedly with a fork or freezing and thawing prior to marinating).
Grated firm Western tofu is sometimes used in conjunction with TVP as
a meat substitute. Softer tofus are sometimes used as a dairy-free or
low-calorie filler. Silken tofu may be used to replace cheese in
certain dishes (such as lasagna).
Tofu has also been fused into other cuisines in the West, for instance
in Indian-style curries.
Tofu and soy protein can be industrially processed to match the
textures and flavors of cheese, pudding, eggs, bacon, and similar
products. Tofu's texture can also be altered by freezing, puréeing,
and cooking. In the Americas, Europe,
Australia and New Zealand, tofu
is frequently associated with vegetarianism and veganism as it is a
source of non-animal protein.
In India, tofu is also used as a low-fat replacement for paneer,
providing the same texture with similar taste.
Nutrition and health
tofu (soft, typical)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
291 kJ (70 kcal)
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Tofu is relatively high in protein, about 10.7% for firm tofu and 5.3%
for soft "silken" tofu, with about 5% and 2% fat, respectively, as
a percentage of weight.
In 1995, a report from the University of Kentucky, financed by Solae,
concluded that soy protein is correlated with significant decreases in
serum cholesterol, Low Density Lipoprotein
LDL ("bad cholesterol") and
triglyceride concentrations. However, High Density Lipoprotein HDL
(″good cholesterol″) did not increase. Soy phytoestrogens
(isoflavones: genistein and daidzein) absorbed onto the soy protein
were suggested as the agent reducing serum cholesterol levels. On the
basis of this research, PTI, in 1998, filed a petition with Food and
Drug Administration for a health claim that soy protein may reduce
cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
The FDA granted this health claim for soy: "25 grams of soy protein a
day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may
reduce the risk of heart disease." For reference, 100 grams
of firm tofu coagulated with calcium sulfate contains 8.19 grams
of soy protein. In January 2006, an American Heart Association
review (in the journal Circulation) of a decade-long study of soy
protein benefits showed only a minimal decrease in cholesterol levels,
but it compared favorably against animal protein sources.
Traditional Chinese medicine claims
Tofu is considered a cooling agent in traditional Chinese medicine. It
is claimed to invigorate the spleen, replenish qi, moisten and cool
off Yang vacuity, and detoxify the body. However, there is no
scientific evidence supporting such claims, nor their implied notions.
In Chinese traditional medicine, tofu is considered suitable for those
who are weak, malnourished, deficient in blood and qi; for the elderly
and slim; for those with high fat content in blood, high cholesterol,
overweight, and with hardened blood vessels; for people with diabetes;
for mothers with low breast-milk supply; for children and young
adults; for those with an inflamed respiratory tract, phlegm, coughing
Tofu is also suited for people of old age; it is
recommended that it be eaten together with liquor, since tofu contains
cysteine, which can speed up the detoxification of alcohol in the body
and lessen the harm done to the liver.
Because it is made of soy, individuals with allergies, particularly
those allergic to legumes[clarification needed], should not consume
All waters especially surface waters contain both dissolved and
suspended particles. Coagulation and flocculation processes are used
to separate the suspended solid portion from the water to form the
curds which makes tofu. The suspended particles vary considerable in
source, composition, and charge, particle size, shape and density.
This affects the shape, firmness, and texture of the curds. The small
particles are stabilized or kept in suspension by action of the
physical forces on the particle themselves. One of the forces that
play a dominant role in the stabilization results from the surface
charge present on the particles. Most solids suspended in water
present a negative charge and since they have the same type of surface
charge, the particles repel each other when they come close together
therefore they will remain in suspension rather than clump together
and settle out of the water.
Tofu is made from soymilk which is a turbid colloidal liquid/solution.
Turbid means a cloudy opaque or thick liquid with suspended matter. A
colloid solution is a solution in which a material is evenly suspended
in a liquid, more specifically, a non homogeneous mixture, in which
one substance of microscopically dispersed insoluble particles is
suspended throughout another substance.
Tofu structure is related to
soymilk components particularly colloid components such as protein
particles and oil globules.
Protein particles content increases with
the increase of globulin ratio in soybeans.
Tofu is made from the
soybean mixture having different ratios by adding coagulant at various
The two main fractions of the soybean important in tofu making are the
11S component, containing glycinin and the 7S subunit, containing
hemagglutinins, lipoxygenases, b-amylase, and β-conglycinin. The
major soy protein components, in the two fractions that make up
65–85% of the proteins in soybeans include glycinin and
β-conglycinin. The soybean protein consists of many different
subunits which are sensitive to heat, pH and ionic strength and become
unevenly distributed among soluble and particulate fractions due to
hydrophilic and hydrophobic interaction due to the amino acid
Denaturation of glycinin and Β-conglycinin
Tofu is prepared by changing the nature of native soy proteins
(Glycinin and β-conglycinin) in soy milk to form a gel. In the tofu
making process, the denaturation of soy proteins happens during the
heating processing unit where soy milk is steamed to 75–95 degrees
C. The soy protein enthalpies of denaturation range from 0.2 to 3.0
J/gram protein for 7S fraction containing β-conglycinin and from 0.2
to 6.0 J/gram protein for 11S fraction including glycinin. Upon
denaturation, β-conglycinin and conglycinin unfold and expose the
hydrophobic acidic amino acid side chains to promote protein
Soymilk particle composition (cooking)
When talking about the particles in soymilk, researchers commonly
refer to the particles in the soymilk system based on particle size
and fractionation. The precipitated fraction refers to particulate
protein particles that are >40 nm in size, the supernatant
fraction contains soluble proteins <40 nm and all lipids exist
in the floating fraction after the soymilk is heated. At room
temperature (20 degrees C) the soy proteins and corresponding subunits
are in their native state and located in the particulate fraction and
soluble fraction. The particulate fraction displays the lipid oil
bodies are surrounded by majority of 11S subunits and 7S subunits.
When heated, to 65–75 degrees C, the 7S subunits dissociate first
moving to the soluble fraction and the oil bodies are released into
the soluble and floating fraction. After high temperature subjected to
a high temperature (75-95 degrees C) the protein-lipid complex is
completely dissociated as the 11S subunits dissociate. What remains in
the particulate fraction are 11S and 7S subunits that interact and oil
bodies remain in the floating fraction.
Gel texture: protein composition
Gelation occurs when the soybean protein subunits dissociate, denature
then aggregate therefore the protein composition of glycinin and
β-conglycinin will determine the gel strength of the final tofu
product. Since glycinin and β -conglycinin have different enthalpy of
denaturation the gelation mechanisms also differ therefore gelation
occurs at two different temperatures, it is possible for a gel to form
at a lower temperature (75 degrees C) if the soybean protein contained
a higher composition of the β-conglycinin then glycinin. A study that
analyzed isolated proteins different gelation mechanism showed the
isolated glycinin formed a coarse gel network with a pore size of
2–3 μm. The glycinin gel network is stabilized through further
formation of disulfide crosslinks and non-covalent interactions. It is
hypothesized β-conglycinin heat induced gels form as randomly
aggregated assembly of clusters that randomly form a gel with a finer
dispersed network with a pore size of 0.5–0.6 μm. It is found
in a mixed system like tofu that glycinin contributes to the hardness
and factorability, while β-conglycinin contributes to the elasticity
of the gels; however, further research is needed to conclude how the
ratio of subunits truly affects the texture of tofu making as
conflicting results have been reported.
Aggregation and gelation mechanism
Gelation can be defined as protein aggregation phenomenon in which
polymer-polymer and polymer-solvent interaction are so balanced that a
tertiary network of matrix is. Coagulation is protein aggregation in
which polymer-polymer interaction are favored resulting in a less
elastic, less hydrated structure than a protein gel. The gel formation
characteristic of tofu consists of the following two steps: an
irreversible step which is (1) protein denaturation induced by heat
and (2) acid or salt coagulation. Heat induced denaturation
results in the disruption of the secondary and tertiary structure of
the soy proteins. Now that the soy proteins are unfolded, the
hydrophobic regions that are initially located inside the protein are
exposed to the outside medium. In the second step, the exposed
negatively charged acidic side chains residues (-COOH) present on
glutamic and aspartic acid amino acid are protonated by the addition
of coagulant. The addition of acid or ions neutralizes the surface
charge of the exposed side chains. As a result, the electrostatic
repulsion between protein molecules are decreased and hydrogen bonding
and Van der Waals forces dominate and the now neutralized protein
molecule becomes the predominant structure. Due to charge dispersion
and decrease electrostatic repulsion, the particles can come closer
together and aggregation occur via hydrophobic interactions causing
the proteins aggregate to form a three dimensional protein network
entrapping water and other components.
During freezing, the ice crystals puncture cell walls and facilitate
the release of free and bound water and cause a decrease in total
water content in tofu after freezing then thawing. The initial
protein-water bonds are irreversibly replaced by protein-protein
bonds, which are more elastic which cause a structural change to the
gel network and lead to an increase in textural properties such as
hardness, springiness, cohesiveness and gumminess.
Tofu in a market ready for sale. This tofu is still between the wooden
boards that were used to press out the water
Tofu sold in Haikou, Hainan, China
List of tofu dishes
List of soy-based foods
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