How An International Spy Helped Popularize Tofu

Tofu is often perceived to be a super food by some fans who can't get enough of this ingredient. Per Healthline, it's a debatable and polarizing topic. Some believe that tofu was first invented a long time ago when a cook made a mistake and mixed soy milk with nigari. The latter is what you get when you remove salt from seawater. Today, there are a multitude of tofu options available, such as organic variants and tofu made from genetically modified soybeans.

One home cook wrote on Reddit that one of the best and tastiest ways to consume tofu is in pad thai. Another fan suggested, "Tofu scramble is one of my favorite foods... can add plenty of veggies if you want." They also recommend squeezing tofu during prepping for the best results.

Tofu is not just versatile, it also has an interesting backstory. According to Eater, a spy first came up with a way to make this ingredient a lot more popular among the public.

From Chinese spy to French tofu maker

It all really began with a Chinese spy called Li Yuying, also known as Li Shizeng. According to Eater, he was told to move to France on a secret mission and was expected to unearth military secrets during his time there. Well, he didn't really succeed and fell head over heels in love with France instead. Eventually, he also developed a fascination for soybeans and became practically obsessed with them.

Yuying proceeded to quit French military school and spend time at the Pasteur Institute in Paris instead, where he spent hours learning about soy and its properties. He became accomplished enough to start Usine de la Caséo-Sojaïne or the Tofu Manufacturing Co. This was the first tofu manufacturing company in Europe and a major accomplishment for the former spy, who switched to vegetarianism and supported Chinese students in Paris through his organization. What a story. Of course, his hard work also helped ensure that more people were introduced to tofu.