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History of tofu

Tofu history in China - Tofu is very popular in the Orient today but tofu was first used in China over 2000 years ago. The oldest evidence of tofu production is a Chinese mural incised on a stone slab. It shows a kitchen scene that proves that soymilk and tofu were being made in China during the period A.D. 25-220. The oldest written reference to tofu appeared in also in China at about A.D. 1500, in a poem "Ode to Tofu" by Su Ping.

Tofu history in Japan - Kento priests, who went to China to study Buddhism, brought tofu back to Japan during the Nara era (710-794). Tofu was eaten as part of a vegetarian diet for priests for their protein content. The word "tofu" is first mentioned in Japan in the dairy of the Shinto priest Nakaomi. Tofu was used as an offering at an altar.
In 1489 the word "tofu" was first written in the actual Japanese characters. Tofu gradually became popular among the nobility and the samurai class. During the Edo era (1603-1867), tofu became popular among ordinary people. The cooking book "Tofu Hyakuchin" was published in 1782 and sold very well.

Tofu history in Western world - In 1603 the Spanish dictionary "Vocabulario da lingoa de Iapam" was the first European document with reference to the word "tofu". Domingo Fernandez de Navarrete described in his book "A Collection of Voyages and Travles" how tofu was made. The first English reference to tofu was in 1704, when Navarrete's book was published in English. Tofu was first produced (non-commercial) in France by Paillieux in 1880. Hirata & Co started to make tofu in San Francisco in 1895. The first Westerner who produced tofu on a commercial scale was T.A. Van Gundy in 1929 when he started the company La Sierra Industries in California.

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