SINGAPORE: Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have successfully turned tofu whey into an alcoholic beverage with a fruity, sweet flavour.
The recipe for the drink, which the researchers have named Sachi, took about three months to be finalised, NUS said in a press release on Monday (Nov 27). The drink has an alcohol content of about 7 to 8 per cent.
Tofu whey is a liquid that is generated from the production of tofu or bean curd and is often discarded.
NUS said the fermentation technique also enriches the drink with isoflavones, which are antioxidants that have many health benefits.
The creation of Sachi was initiated a year ago by Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan and his PhD student Mr Chua Jian Yong, who have an interest in sustainable food production. Both are from the Food Science and Technology Programme at the NUS Faculty of Science.
“The traditional way of manufacturing tofu produces a large amount of whey, which contains high levels of calcium and unique soya nutrients such as isoflavones and prebiotics. Hence, disposing tofu whey is wasteful," Mr Chua said.
Mr Chua said he had previously worked on alcohol fermentation during his undergraduate studies in NUS, and decided to take up the challenge of producing an alcoholic beverage using the whey.
The whole process of making the alcoholic beverage takes about three weeks.
The process involves making fresh soya milk from soybeans, and then using the soya milk to make tofu. Whey is collected during the course of the tofu production and mixed with sugar, acid and yeast. The concoction is then fermented to produce the alcoholic beverage.
"The drink turned out to be tasty, which is a pleasant surprise,” said Mr Chua.
“The health benefits associated with soy products, coupled with changing preferences towards vegetarian diets, have fuelled the growth of tofu production. As a result, the amount of tofu whey has also increased proportionally. Alcoholic fermentation can serve as an alternative method to convert tofu whey into food products that can be consumed directly," Professor Liu said.
The team has filed a patent for the process, and they are looking to collaborate with industry partners to introduce the drink to consumers.