Mud Volcano Tofu

mud pool near the Salton Sea, photo by maggiejumps 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.


  1. Silver Fox wrote:

    Yay! Do you have an ad for this one today?

    I think there was a (small?) mud volcano eruption near Steamboat Hot Springs in Reno a few years back – it might have had something to do with the hot springs, in which case Hg might have been rather plentiful in the water. Yum.

    My dad, ex-geotype, says all table salt is sea-salt (excluding interior basin lithium brine salt, etc.) – I guess the point being that the other elements are usually taken out in the making of salt – but I’m no salt-production expert.

    I don’t like much salt in my coffee, either.
    Yummy good post!

  2. Maria wrote:

    The difference might also be in how much of the evaporite sequence you’re eating – do they completely evaporate the water when they make “sea salt”? I think lots of mined salt just takes the halite-y part of an evaporite sequence.


  3. Mark C. Chu-Carroll wrote:

    It might be good.

    There are ton of foods that rely on what might seem like very odd ingredients. There are cheeses made with vegetable ash, with clay, with soil. And they’re often wonderful. (For example, Morbier cheese has a layer of vegetable ash down the center, and it’s great.) There’s a french cheese who’s name I don’t recall – it’s a small pyramid shaped block, reddish on the outside; the red comes from clay soil used in the salt-wash that produces its rind.)

    Really good tofu (not the typical american crap, but the good stuff) actually has a very nice, mild flavor. I can imagine that a bit of mineral bitterness added to it could be quite pleasant.

  4. Julian wrote:

    You know, you ought to try to make some recipe for Mud Volcano Tofu and bring the result to the same post-thesis/quals party at which you have to buy the whole department beer. People might eat it anyway, if they’re suitably nerdy, but after all the beer, at least someone will surely give it a try…

  5. Maria wrote:

    You know, right after I wrote this yesterday, my officemate told me he used to make tofu for his co-op… he also homebrews. I should just have him cater the whole event.

    Mark, if you remember the name of that clay cheese, will you let me know? A series of “gourmet geophagy” posts could be really fun.

  6. tceisele wrote:

    Speaking of selling heavily hyped, overpriced minerals to gullible New Agers, I just found this one yesterday. They are selling magnetite sand for outrageous prices, considering that I think the local iron mines are still getting less than $100 a ton for it. If “” are actually moving stuff at this price, maybe I’m in the wrong business.

  7. Chris Rowan wrote:

    If “” are actually moving stuff at this price, maybe I’m in the wrong business.

    And I definitely am!

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