A combination of vanilla, tofu and pumpkin create this cool way to end a hot night. Photo source: Japan Tofu Association
I’ll get to the ice cream in a moment. Really.
But I want to point out that even when it comes to history, even bean curd can be a tricky topic. Who did what and when can be subject to interpretation and debate, based on what was recorded and what was found.
Well, the Japan Tofu Association is questioning whether Liu An, the grandson of a Chinese emperor, should be given credit as the general inventor of the food.
Life is complicated these days. So, it is easy to overlook that tofu made its debut in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).
That makes it older than the modern version of the hamburger, which started showing up around the 1800s. Yes, Egypt’s pyramids are more senior. But tofu predates the Gutenberg printing press and American-style democracy.
Not bad for food that starts with a roly-poly bean a bit smaller than the size of your fingertip.
As the story from China goes, Liu An, the grandson of a Chinese emperor, lived in Anhui province, which is west of Shanghai. Liu believed in Daoism (Taoism) and sought a long life. So, in 164 BC, he instructed eight of his assistants to discover a medicine, an elixir in a sense, to accomplish his goal.
During this process, the assistants went to the province’s Huainan area, which is north of the capital city of Hefei. There, they used fresh mountain water and soy beans to make milk. They took the milk and added coagulants. They worked feverishly to find the magical formula.
Instead, as the story goes, they created the wiggly mass known as tofu.