Turning Tofu to Wine
Node Smith, ND
Research Team Takes Tofu Whey and Turns it to Booze
A research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has taken tofu whey, and turned it into an alcoholic beverage.1 Typically, tofu whey is discarded as waste – it is a byproduct of the tofu production process. However, this team showed how it can be used to make a tasty adult beverage. They named it Sachi (not to be confused with Sake, which is a Japanese rice wine).
The technique used to create Sachi actually enriches the drink with isoflavones. Isoflavones are antioxidants which are very high in soy (the whole food that tofu is derived from).
The idea for Sachi has been brewing for about a year. Associate Professor Liu Shao-Quan and PhD student Chua Jian-Yong, both have an interest in sustainability practices in food production. The idea of taking a waste product and turning it into something usable was very appealing.
“The health benefits associated with soy products, coupled with changing preferences towards vegetarian diets, have fueled the growth of tofu production As a result, the amount of tofu whey has also increased proportionally. Alcoholic fermentation can serve as an alternative method to convert tofu whey into food products that can be consumed directly. Our unique fermentation technique also serves as a zero-waste solution to the serious issue of tofu whey disposal,” says Prof Liu.
Right this Whey
Manufacturing tofu has traditionally produced a large amount of whey, say the researchers. This whey contains a lot of calcium and nutrients that are unique to soy, such as isoflavones and prebiotics. Until now, there has been little research in how to transform the waste product into something useful. The waste actually creates environmental pollution, since the protein and sugars in the whey could be contributing to oxygen depletion in rivers and streams.
The process of fermentation takes about 3 weeks. Through the fermentation process the tofu whey is biotransformed and its strong odor is actually changed to be quite sweet and fruity. It also extends its shelf life from one day to about 4 months. Also, the fermentation process changes the bound isoflavones in tofu whey into free isoflavones that can be more easily absorbed. The alcohol content is about 7-8 percent.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.