Singapore researchers have developed the world’s first booze made from tofu whey – and it tastes like sake

Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan (right) and PhD student Mr Chua Jian Yong (left) successfully turned tofu whey into a tasty alcoholic beverage which they named Sachi.
National University of Singapore

If you’re looking to get a new kick from your weekend tipple, how about something boozy made from tofu?

It sounds completely bizarre but researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed the world’s first alcoholic beverage made from tofu whey.

No way? Yes whey – and it’s all because of how popular tofu is in Asian culture and the large amounts of whey which is disposed off during the manufacturing process of tofu.

When discarded as untreated waste, whey adds to environmental pollution as the protein and soluble sugars in it contribute to oxygen depletion in waterways.

It was enough to spur Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan and PhD student Mr Chua Jian Yong to do something about it.

Oh, and it looks pretty gross too (see below).

Aqilah Allaudeen/Business Insider

The NUS researchers came up with a zero-waste approach of converting the bi-product of tofu into a Made-In-Singapore alcoholic beverage named ‘Sachi’ which means “bliss”.

During a media visit to the NUS lab, Mr Chua told Business Insider that that he went for a Japanese-inspired name because of the popularity of Japanese culture among Singaporeans. Also, as the beverage has a sake-like profile, he deemed it apt.

He said: “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 at NUS, so I decided to take up the challenge of producing an alcoholic beverage using whey. The drink turned out to be tasty, which was a pleasant surprise,” said Mr Chua.

When given a sample to taste, members of the media agreed, with many describing the drink as “fruity” and “similar to white wine or sake”.

The entire process, from making the tofu to transforming it into Sachi, takes approximately three weeks.

It involves soaking and grinding soy beans to make soy milk, followed by coagulating it to form tofu.

During the coagulation process, tofu whey is formed.

The beans first undergo soaking, followed by grinding (when okara, a by-product is formed), and lastly coagulation (when tofu whey is produced).
Business Insider/Aqilah Allaudeen

After collecting the tofu whey, it goes through a process of pre-treatment (when sugar and acid are added and the liquid is pasteurised) followed by fermentation and storage.

But there is still work that needs to be done.

As the shelf-life of Sachi is only 4 months when refrigerated, the researchers are working on increasing this to six to nine months under normal conditions.

They are also looking for industry partners to supply them with tofu whey and aid in the process so they won’t have to manufacture it on their own.

But finding a willing supplier has been a key issue, as many of the tofu manufacturers in Singapore are halal-certified and unable to produce alcoholic beverages at their facilities.

Yet, they remain optimistic in the development of Sachi as well as its health benefits.

Assoc Prof Liu said: “it is the only alcoholic beverage that has isoflavones, which contribute to health benefits like bone health, heart health and cancer-prevention”.

So, if this ever lands at the bar or supermarket shelves, drink up – it’s good for you.