Japan’s historic and nutritious Kori-Tofu unveiled in Europe in novel cereal, bread and snack applications
08 Dec 2022 --- Traditional Japanese Kori-Tofu has made its debut in Europe, with its manufacturer Asahimatsu Foods Co pitching the versatility of the signature “fluffy” tofu to a delegation of food industry executives during an event at the Netherlands’ “Food Valley” hub.
FoodIngredientsFirst was in attendance at the exclusive tasting event hosted by Asahimatsu Foods’ leadership at the Wageningen University & Research (WUR) campus.
“My vision is that Asahimatsu Foods can make Kori-Tofu and its health benefits available to the European market as products or as an ingredient in a healthy diet for local consumers,” Hirotaka Kinoshita, CEO of Asahimatsu Foods, tells us.
The applications for Kori-Tofu are widely varied. While it is traditionally eaten as a savory dish soaking up broth like a flavorful sponge, nowadays its cooking methods have expanded into more contemporary selections.
The product can be mashed into a paste to spread on bread, sliced thinly and fried in oil to create fries, or used as salad toppings.
At the WUR campus, bowls of Kori-Tofu breakfast cereal were served with milk to participants – a high protein alternative to sugary processed supermarket staples.
The tofu can also be integrated as a nutritional ingredient in bread recipes, such as low carb pizza dough, gluten-free cake or high protein cookies. It allows the bakery product to maintain an authentic flavor and texture profile.
Another example of a popular FMCG format that Kori-Tofu can take on is cup noodle soup, where it can be used as an alternative to wheat or rice-based noodles.
“We believe the variations in use of Kori-Tofu are unlimited. However, we can only see and think based on our current food culture and what we know,” says Kinoshita.
Buddhist heritage roots
The Japan heritage site of Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture in Wakayama where Kori-Tofu originates is designated as a world heritage site, where the temperature drops below minus 0°C.
Around 800 years ago, it is said that a monk left his tofu outside on a cold winter day, and then he ate the frozen tofu the next day. Kori-Tofu has since then been associated with Shojin cuisine, which is associated with the Buddhist vegetarian lifestyle.
Asahimatsu Foods was founded in 1950 in Iida city, Nagano Prefecture. It now operates a factory that draws its energy from the Tengyu river.
For the company’s production process, soybeans are brought to the factory. After they are inspected, they are soaked in water and ground. After the resulting soy milk is boiled, nigari – a culinary coagulant also known as bittern – is added to transform the soymilk into a solid form. This is then cut into small pieces by a machine to neatly form the jiggly and soft tofu.
The tofu is then put in a freezer at -9°C and frozen for three hours while being rotated. This frozen tofu is stacked and aged for 20 days at a temperature of -2°C.
This slow freezing process facilitates the binding of proteins and creates the tofu’s distinct fluffy texture. Twenty days later, the frozen tofu is thawed by using pure natural water from Nagano Prefecture. Finally, when it is dry it is ready to eat.
Health benefits and regulatory considerations
Under European food law, Kori-Tofu is not considered a novel food product.
“We conducted research on this issue when we first started our operations here,” Takahiro Ishiguro, senior researcher at Asahimatsu Foods, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“With the expert help, we came to the conclusion that since the composition is about the same as tofu – and tofu is not a novel food – Kori-Tofu is also not considered as a novel food.”
Asahimatsu Foods has also conducted extensive research into the health effects of Kori-Tofu.
“We have done many clinical trials in Japan and confirmed the product’s health functionalities for Japanese consumers,” highlights Ishiguro.
“Recent clinical trials were conducted by WUR in the Netherlands and we also confirmed that Kori-Tofu will reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and blood pressure through daily intake.”
Scientists from Unilever and WUR recently challenged the concern that processing soy products makes them less nutritious, proving it false. The researchers determined that processing soy increases its nutritional quality, affirming its status as a valuable source of protein for plant-based foods.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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