PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 June, 2009, 12:00am

Bean curd

In English, we call it tofu. That is also what the Japanese call it. But everybody in Hong Kong knows it's really Chinese (). It is also sometimes called 'bean curd' in English.

To make tofu, first you need soy milk. Soy milk is made by soaking soy beans in water and then grinding them. Tofu is made a little bit like certain types of cheese are made. It is thickened by adding a kind of salt. Then it is pressed into blocks.

Mysterious origins

We know it comes from China. But, other than that, nobody is really sure who invented tofu. In Chinese legend, it was invented by a prince in the Han dynasty around 160BC. It is probably not true, though.

In Chinese legends, many important things are invented by princes, kings and emperors. The most likely way tofu was invented is that ancient Chinese watched what Mongolians did with milk. The Mongolians ferment milk - let it go sour - which is the first step for making cheeses. The same has to be done with soy milk to make tofu.

A healthy meal

Almost everybody agrees tofu is good for you. It contains a lot of protein. This means it makes a good replacement for meat. Buddhists in China, Japan and Korea often eat fake meat made out of tofu.

There are other good things in tofu. Scientists think that eating tofu might help prevent heart disease. It is even good for the brain. Studies show that people who eat lots of tofu are less likely to be forgetful - or worse - when they get old.

Eat it soft or eat it hard

Tofu can be almost runny - as in tofu desserts - which have to be eaten with a spoon. Soft tofu is also used for famous dishes like mapo doufu, which is very spicy and comes from Sichuan province.

Firm tofu can be cut into strips and fried with vegetables and meat. You can pick it up with chopsticks. Dried tofu is the firmest kind. It can also be cut into strips.

Some people eat it flavoured like dried meat. Tofu skin can be used to wrap dim sum. And then of course there is stinky tofu. It is made by soaking the tofu, sometimes for months, in fermented liquid. Some people say the smellier the tofu, the better it tastes.

now do this

1 Tofu was probably invented ...

a. by a Chinese prince

b. by the Japanese

c. by Chinese who saw Mongolians ferment milk

2 Tofu has high ... content

a. protein

b. vitamin C

c. yeast

3 Mapo doufu is a famous dish from ...

a. Japan

b. Sichuan

c. Hunan

Answers on page 11 next Friday


May 29:

Page 5:

1. b, 2. a, 3. c