Illiana Somoroff

Tofu, Bean curd or Rice paper? (draft)

Thai Sauna Experiments

By now, we have already been able to get a taste of the experiments that Waew is currently involved in, to create a Thai Sauna dinner experience. Starting with the willow brand chicken coops, to the bioplastic, she now turns to other materials to attempt creating “sheets” to keep the heat in.

After Waew found the cracking and molding in the bioplastic she had been making, she thought “what other sustainable substances work in the same ways as bioplastic?” The answer being: tofu paper, bean curd and rice paper.  

Process of using rice paper 

One might be familiar with rice paper to make spring rolls. To be able to mold rice paper, which comes in dried sheets, one must soak it entirely in water. Subsequently, once the paper is wet enough and moldable, one can place it in the preferred shape. The last step is letting the rice paper dry for a couple of days. 

Trial with rice paper

In Waew’s first attempts at constructing something out of rice paper, she made a lamp. She says that in the first few days it worked very well so she kept continuing to make different structures out of rice paper. However, after a couple of days of drying, the rice paper began to shrink dramatically, which led to further cracking of the paper. This was disappointing to find out but Waew continued to make models, altering a small variable each time, in the end making over 200 model trials with rice paper. 

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Lamp made from rice paper -

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Rice paper lamp after drying -

Tofu and Bean curd

Waew also tried making structures and lamps with tofu paper and bean curd. Both are known to have a similar texture to rice paper, but they proved to be even more unpredictable depending on the temperature of the setting. 

However, there are a few unique discoveries that came out through Waew’s research. For instance, the way that she chose to weave the tofu paper together, to make a structure that is more sturdy, comes out to be a very beautiful “fabric” in the end. Although the tofu paper may not be secure enough to hold steam within a large structure, the experiments brought wonderful new discoveries and insights. 

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Tofu paper try out -

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Bean curd tryout -

New discoveries

It is also quite clear that in trying to be sustainable, Waew has encountered numerous design difficulties which are fundamental to her idea. At the same time, this project has grown tremendously, precisely through the various efforts which the artist, Waew, has gone through. The conclusions which arose while working with the rice paper, tofu paper and bean curd are largely due to the uncertainty of how the material will react when it comes in contact with steam. As a result, Waew has moved on, yet again, in working with a new material: recycled plastic. 

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Waew holding up rice paper -

Follow the next blog post with Chef Waew: Rejuvenating Herbs used in Thai Sauna