A Collection of Voyages and Travels, by Domingo Fernández de Navarrete
Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Domingo Fernández de Navarrete, a Spanish Dominican missionary that travelled to China in the second half of the seventeenth century (1657-1673), gave us what may be one of the first ever mentions of tofu by a westerner. Even though more than three hundred years have passed since he wrote A Collection of Voyages and Travel in 1704, the truth of his observations are still valid nowadays:
Before I proceed to the next Chapter, because I forgot it in the first Book, I will here briefly mention the most usual, common and cheap sort of Food all China abounds in, and which all Men in that Empire eat, from the Emperor to the meanest Chinese, the Emperor and great Men as a Dainty, the common sort as necessary sustenance. It is call'd Teu Fu, that is, Paste of Kidney Beans. I did not see how they made it. They draw the Milk out of the Kidney-Beans, and turning it, make great Cakes of it like Cheeses, as big as a large Sive, and five or six fingers thick. All the Mass is as White as the very Snow, to look to nothing can be finer. It is eaten raw, but generally boil'd and dress'd with Herbs, Fish, and other things. Alone it is insipid, but very good so dress'd, and excellent fry'd in Butter. They have it also dry'd and smok'd, and mix'd with Caraway-seeds, which is best of all. It is incredible what vast quantities of it are consum'd in China, and very hard to conceive there should be such abundance of Kidney-Beans. That Chinese who has Teu Fu, Herbs and Rice, needs no other Sustenance to work, and I think there is no body but has it, because they may have a Pound (which is above twenty Ounces) of it any where for a Half-penny. It is a great help in case of want, and is good for carriage. It has one good Quality, which is, that it causes the different Airs and Seasons, which in that vast Region vary much, to make no alteration in the Body, and therefore they that travel from one Province to another make use of it. Teu Fu is one of the most remarkable things in China, there are many will leave Pullets for it. If I am not deceiv'd, the Chinese of Manila make it, but no European eats it, which is perhaps because they have not tasted it, no more than they do Fritters fry'd in Oil of Ajonjoli (a very small Seed they have in Spain and India, which we have not) which the Chinese make in that City, and is an extraordinary Dainty.