By Paul Ndiho
Have you ever thought about how different foods are made? I’m always asking myself this question and wondering how different foods are made too.
This fascinating story is about Martin Ssali a Ugandan born, food scientist at Makerere University in Uganda — Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship; he moved back to Uganda to start the National Soybean Network and Smart Foods Limited. Mr. Ssali has turned his passion into a profitable business with the introduction of new soy foods, soy value chain, which involves stimulation of soya production, chain market improvement, and industrial soybean utilization.
“The idea of doing tofu and different soy innovations came during my final year as a student of food science and technology at Makerere University, where we are encouraged to come up with new ideas that would move Uganda’s food industry to the next level. I looked at the industry, and I looked at different industries and what was not going on well and what gaps we had in the industry.”
Tofu, or bean curd, is a favorite food derived from soybeans. It is made by curdling fresh soya milk, pressing it into a solid block and then cooling it – in much the same way that traditional dairy cheese is made. It starts with getting dried soybeans from the farmers, washing the beans to separate the good ones from the bad ones, soaking the beans for a couple of hours, and then transferring the beans to a food processor or high-powered blender to get soymilk.
Tofu is a delicacy widely enjoyed around the world, and it is an excellent example of how a simple food like soybeans can be woven into human food traditions in a way that is natural, inexpensive, and nourishing.
“There was the idea of doing innovations in soybean, where we can make tofu and be able to spice it up for the market, the soy milk, and spice up the soy milk to taste
Tofu is a surprisingly versatile form of soybeans that is made by curdling soymilk so that its proteins become coagulated and then pressed into a sliceable cake.
Even though little tofu sold in the Uganda – Ssali says through his start-up, he able to change peoples mindset as they get to know that Tofu is an excellent source of protein.
“As a scientist what’s my contribution to this country. I chose soybean because it’s great in protein. However we, have so little attention to the crop in the country. That’s why I decided to focus on the soybeans.”
Furthermore, Nutritionists say that Tofu has an excellent source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.
Besides being the ideal food source for many vegetarians and vegans, it also packs an enormous amount of health benefits into those thin white blocks including its ability to increase the blood circulation in the body, thanks to its iron and copper content.
“Imagine you eating meat, but you’re not eating meat because it’s coming from soy bean…. we’ve been able to innovate very well to be able to deliver to them something they can be able to enjoy. So what we are trying to do here is an equivalent to meat, because tofu has, all the same, properties regarding nutrition just like meat.”
Nutritionist say if adults replaced meat and dairy intake with soy, tofu and other soy products, they would also lower cholesterol, in turn, would reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases.
Martin Ssali was part of the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship — U.S. President Barack Obama’s initiative that brings five hundred of Africa’s brightest minds to America, to learn new skills and new experiences.