The Wikipedia page on tofu states that this food was first produced in Han dynasty China. However, the source cited seems to me quite doubtful:
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.
Source: History of Tofu
Endymion Wilkinson’s Chinese History: A Manual (rev. edition 2000) is a more reputable source. Here is what he states about the origins of tofu:
Bean curd (doufu) is first mentioned in the early Song [10-11th centuries AD]. It was imported into Japan and first appears there in a source of 1183. It was used as a substitute for meat and fish in the Buddhist vegetarian cooking. [pp. 642-3]
Elsewhere Wilkinson mentions that soybeans are indigenous to China and have been cultivated since the Zhou dynasty (so more than 2000 years ago.) The soy products from this earlier date are soy sauce and related fermented foods that have a strong, tangy taste, very different from the blandness of tofu.
- Can anyone provide more convincing evidence about when and where tofu was invented?
- The Wilkinson passage implies but does not state directly that tofu originated as a food specifically for vegetarians. Is there any evidence that this is the case?
Finally, a related question: Soy milk is now commonly consumed at breakfast along with fried doughnuts in China. When did this practice come about?