I have been going through the pictures and the videos I took when I went to visit a tofu plant somewhere in the outskirts of Jakarta a while ago. I had initially thought to share the process to make tofu with you – something I was completely ignorant about, until I landed in this funny place and became a tofu addict. But what I saw was so completely different from my imagination, that I now find it a bit difficult to simply tell you that you have to grind soya seeds and then boil them twice and stir until you get a thick paste out of it, which you throw onto a table to make gelatinous balls that you then press properly into squares that are wrapped in plastic sheets and sent to restaurants and supermarkets.
The point is that to grind the soya seeds, they use this:
And then to boil the milk they obtain, they use a wood oven (the picture is bad, but you can get an idea):
Smoke is everywhere, and if you survive the heat, you die of intoxication. The workers do not seem to be affected by this, though. They take turns to move the milk pipe into an empty bucket:
and to work around the table:
They start at 5am and go on until 6pm. “Of course they can take pauses when they are tired”, assured the manager. I wondered how many breaks would one need to get to the end of the working day. I was just thinking, in horror, of how their feet would feel in those plastic boots after standing for hours , how their hands would do, handling slimy tofu all day long without gloves, but mostly, how their life is, having to probably get up very early to get to the working place, and coming home at night exhausted, in time to sleep and start it all over again.
I am happy I found out where tofu comes from, but I find it more and more difficult to put all the pieces of this crazy place together: where in the puzzle does this tofu plant go?