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Tofu or bean curd is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is of Chinese origin, and it is also a part of East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and others. There are many different varieties of tofu, including fresh tofu and tofu that has been processed in some way. Tofu has very little flavor or smell on its own, so it can be used either in savory or sweet dishes, and it is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish.
Tofu originated in the Han dynasty in ancient China. Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty described a method of making tofu in Bencao Gangmu. Tofu and its production technique were subsequently introduced into Korea and then Japan during the Nara period. It also spread into other parts of East Asia as well. This spread likely coincided with the spread of Buddhism because it is an important source of protein in the vegetarian diet of East Asian Buddhism.
Tofu contains a low amount of calories, relatively large amount of iron, and little fat. Depending on the coagulant used in manufacturing, the tofu may also be high in calcium and/or magnesium.
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