SINGAPORE, Nov 28 — Wine connoisseurs seeking a more unusual tipple could soon get a taste of an alcoholic beverage made from tofu whey, a liquid that is generated from the production of bean curd.
Chua Jian Yong, a PhD student at the National University of Singapore (NUS), has found a way to convert the waste water — which is often thrown away by tofu companies — into an alcoholic drink that is rich in isoflavones, an antioxidant found in soybeans.
In order to rid the tofu whey of its strong beany odour, the 26-year-old from NUS’ food science and technology programme took three months to alter its composition through a two-week fermentation process, turning the yellowish liquid into an light wine-like brew with a fruity, floral flavour.
Due to its “sake-like profile”, Chua gave the drink a Japanese name, Sachi, which means “blossoming wisdom”.
The beverage has an alcohol content of about seven per cent, and a shelf life of four months. He is currently working to double its shelf life without the use of commonly used preservatives like sulphur dioxide.
This is the first time tofu whey has been used as a product base in alcohol production, the NUS told media yesterday.
A patent was filed in April to protect the process of Sachi-making, while Mr Chua and his team at NUS are looking to collaborate with industry partners to make the drink available to consumers.
Chua has pitched the idea to representatives of two tofu companies here so far.
The PhD student said he had come up with the idea of a tofu wine due to his interest in sustainable food production, as he felt that disposing tofu whey was wasteful as the byproduct contains high levels of calcium and soya nutrients. It also becomes a pollutant when disposed as untreated waste in large amounts, as the protein and soluble sugars in the whey can contribute to oxygen depletion in the waterways.
Chua said that although whey is a homogenous byproduct that is relatively easy to repurpose, “very little research has been done to transform tofu whey into edible food and beverage products”.
“I had previously worked on alcohol fermentation during my undergraduate studies in NUS, so I decided to take up the challenge of producing an alcoholic beverage using the whey,” added Chua.
“The drink turned out to be tasty, which is a pleasant surprise.”
Chua’s supervisor, NUS Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan, said his student’s beverage is a “zero-waste solution to the serious issue of tofu waste disposal” as it made use of 100 per cent of the liquid that is usually drained into the sewage system.
The Sachi brew is the second breakthrough involving alcoholic drinks by NUS researchers this year.
At a press event in June, recent science graduate Alcine Chan, 22, showcased a novel beer containing live probiotics, or good bacteria, that can neutralise toxins and viruses in the body while boosting immunity and improving gut health. — TODAY