Tofu might be a nutritious, protein-dense alternative to meat, but its manufacturing process isn’t the most sustainable. This is because creating the hearty substance produces tofu whey, a nutritive substance which encourages bacterial growth.
Within one day, tofu whey emits a foul-smelling odor, which is why most tofu manufacturers discard of it immediately. However, dumping the byproduct into sewage (without pretreatment) pollutes rivers and reservoirs. Such is a result of tofu whey consuming large amounts of oxygen.
To make use of the tofu whey which is responsible for, in many instances, environmental degradation, a research team from the Food Science and Technology Programme at the Department of Chemistry, NUS, developed a biotransformation process that turns the flavor-free soy whey into a flavorful alcoholic beverage — wine.
The group named the unique beverage Sachi, a Japanese name which means “the blossoming of flowers and wisdom,” according to a news release. The method is entirely zero-waste, which means the tofu whey was utilized fully when making the soy alcoholic beverage.
Said Professor Liu, “Tofu whey contains isoflavones, a phytoestrogen present naturally in soybeans. Isoflavones are known to be an antioxidant and scientific studies have reported that isoflavones have potential health benefits, such as reduction in heart disease, cancer risk and diabetes risk.”
Commercial wine brewing yeasts, which are available online, were used to ferment the tofu whey. Reportedly, the process of fermentation is quite similar to that used for wine-making. Because tofu whey is rich in amino acids, it provides an excellent medium for the growth of the yeasts. Though the process is inexpensive, it requires a long time — not to mention a large storage space.
“This alcoholic beverage has a refreshing taste, is easy to drink and tastes like sake. Even though it is made from tofu whey, it has a very mild to undetectable soy taste. All the flavours in the drink are derived from fermentation, without artificial flavours or flavour extracts,” said CHUA Jian Yong, a PhD student who was part of the research.
The team is presently brainstorming on ways to enhance the flavor profile of the alcoholic beverage by changing fermentation parameters. Hopefully, this gives it a more fruity and floral note.
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