A Short History of Tofu

Tofu has a strong presence in our Issaquah Japanese restaurant. Tofu salads, agetashi tofu, or our “tofu delight” from our Chinese wok selections, you’re sure to find a dish to satisfy your tofu cravings. But have you ever stopped to wonder about the origin of tofu, or how it became such a significant part of Asian cuisine?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know for sure when or how tofu was invented. It is said that it was the brainchild of a Chinese prince named Liu An around 164 BC. However, it was a common practice at this time to attribute the inventions of others to important figures. Whatever its origins, it is clear that the tofu production methods we know today were standardized as early as the second century, BC.

It’s likely that tofu spread from China along with Buddhist philosophy. The vegetarian principles of Buddhism made it necessary to provide followers with a meat-free source of protein. Tofu was therefore able to gain a strong foothold in Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, where it has been a significant part of their culinary traditions to this day.