There is a village in Taiwan trying to build a reputation for tofu flavored with the local mud volcano. On the face of it, this is a horrible idea – blecch, mud! – although there is probably some money to be made by importing the stuff to the U.S. and selling it to gullible New Agers who can be convinced of the spiritual healing properties of ancient Oriental geology.
After thinking about it, though, I think mud volcano tofu might actually be pretty tasty.
Mud volcanoes occur when sediment is (a) deposited very fast, so that there’s no time for its water to gracefully ooze out while it settles in to a nice, dense arrangement of particles, and then (b) squeezed so hard that the sediment and water all squirts out in a mess. The fluid erupted from a mud volcano (which is what they’re using to make tofu in Luoshan – I guess they filter out the actual mud particles) can contain several potentially delicious or disgusting things:
- Connate water, the stuff that was in the sediment when it first formed. If it’s a marine sediment , the connate water will be sea water; if it’s a terrestrial sediment, the connate water will be fresh.
- Water from clay mineral metamorphism. Lots of clay minerals break down at relatively low temperatures, and when they do, they release water and some more-or-less soluble ions like iron, magnesium, and silica.
- Hydrocarbon-related dreck. Lots of mud volcanoes burp methane, and the residents of Luoshan have in fact been harvesting natural gas from the local mud volcano for yonks. However, methane is odorless and tasteless, and probably exsolved from the fluid before it has time to do anything to the tofu, anyway. Larger hydrocarbons are sometimes present in mud volcanoes, but not usually in very high concentrations.
The Luoshan mud volcano provides a habitat for briny swamp plants. I don’t know anything else about this particular mud volcano, but my guess is that it’s erupting mostly connate sea water. Which means that mud volcano tofu may not be so different from normal tofu with sea salt.
I’m not enough of a foodie to taste the difference between sea salt and plain ol’ iodized NaCl, but I do know that salty things* are usually more delicious than the non-salty versions of the same things. Yay, salty tofu!
*For values of “thing” not including licorice or plum soda.