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history of tofu and environmental advantages of a plant based diet


There is much debate about how tofu (or ‘doufu’ – curdled beans in Mandarin) originated. Despite ‘tofu’ being a Japanese word, some say it was first made in China in as early as in the Han dynasty (202 BC–220 AD). This early form  of tofu is understood to have been depicted on stone murals. Yet others say it dates even further back in time and Mongolians and East Indian cultures were the first to discover methods of coagulating bean milks.

The ‘Accidental Coagulation Theory’ states that tofu was actually developed by accident, probably prior to AD 600, when someone in northern China seasoned a soybean soup with unrefined sea salt containing natural nigari and noticed that curds formed. Even though popular in Japan, it was only introduced there in the 8th century by Chinese travellers, where it was called ‘Chinese curd’. Over the centuries and across all Asian nations, tofu has been used as a nutritious meat alternative, being particularly popular with Buddhists living by a vegetarian diet.

So when did we start eating it in Europe? In 1908 a Chinese man began making it in France and it gained popularity, with the nickname ‘Chinese cheese’. In the mid 20th century it became better known across Europe, and we now see it across our supermarkets and in our restaurants in the UK. In the last few years the demand for tofu has increased exponentially as people look for meat-free alternatives which are rich in protein.

Environmental Advantages

The environmental advantages of tofu over meat are notable. It takes significantly less land, energy and water to produce a nutritionally equivalent portion of tofu. The fact that it is a nutritious alternative with a far less of a detrimental effect on the environment is why many have been convinced to try tofu as an alternative, even if just for one meal a week.

It is rightly reported in the media that the Cerrado & Amazonian rainforests, not to mention countless other lands with abundant wildlife, are felled to clear land for the production of soy beans. However, 75% of these soy beans are fed to cattle and other livestock which are reared for meat. The amount of land required to produce soy beans for human
consumption is dramatically reduced and therefore tofu is an environmentally beneficial choice to make.

So it follows that we named this the ‘Zofu’ box. Not only can we reduce carbon emissions and deforestation by choosing tofu - but by making our own at home we can eliminate the need for plastic packaging.

We hope you enjoy your tofu - drop us a line on instagram @zero_waste_tofu & let us know how it tastes!

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