Mostly overshadowed by its popular cousin, tofu, tempeh is a powerhouse food that is more and more popping up on restaurant menus and in grocery stores everywhere. But how much do you actually know about this plant-based dish?
Though Indonesians see it as just another dish in our culinary lexicon, Westerners herald tempeh as a superfood and a revolutionary source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. Posted as a simple feast for the eyes of the food porn fans, or as a delicious alternative to meat loaded with nutritional benefits, tempeh is making more of its sexy appearances on pages of health-oriented, vegetarian, and vegan influencers on social media channels.
Here’s to give you a picture of how it’s made and how to turn it into an enjoyable dish at home.
How is it made?
Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans by soaking the beans overnight, skinning, rubbing, until they split into halves. Indonesian villagers will then tread it like grapes unless they have factory-like tools to do it. Boiled for 20-30 minutes, they get drained and left to cool until they’re lukewarm, then get sprinkled with powdered Rhizopus oligosporus culture, mixed and wrapped in banana leaves or plastic foil - as they mostly are in Europe. Of course, this is a traditional way of making it, but modern tempeh manufacturers do it differently.
These packs need to be perforated with small holes (usually with a toothpick) every centimetre or so to ensure a good air supply for the mould spores. The container you use for the beans should not be more than two centimetres deep. The beans are now ready to be incubated at a temperature between 25 and 30 Celsius for 24-48 hours. Then you’ll see that beautiful whiteness appearing. Keeping the right temperature and ensuring a good air supply is important as Rhizopus oligosporus is such a sensitive culture. It does take patience, yes.
Based on its nutritional information described in ‘health benefits of Tempeh’, tempeh is a good way to get vitamin B, fibre, iron, calcium, and other minerals. There is also evidence that soy products like tempeh may help with inflammation, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart, bone health, menopause-related issues, and more. Certainly, when you have a soy allergy, it’s not a good idea to eat it.
How to cook it?
Now, this is interesting. The beauty of it is: There’s no rule. You can cube, slice, crumble, stir-fry, sautée, or bake it. It can be turned into sandwiches, burger patty, mixed into veggies or topped with a salad like quinoa or couscous. Many ways to enjoy it but here’s what’ important: Your first taste of tempeh matters! Tempeh can be divisive, you love or hate it, so make sure your first bite is awesome.
Below is a vegan, gluten-free tempeh stir-fry under 30 minutes:
Cut 250 gr of tempeh into small cubes, fry shortly (half-cooked), and put aside.
Fry some thin-sliced onion (25gr) then garlic (15gr) with 3 tablespoons of coconut oil.
Add 2 cm of crunched galangal (or ginger), 1 bay leaf, 1 lime leaf.
Add 1 piece of red pepper. (sliced into thin 2 cm-length)
Mix them all well, let them sizzle on the pan for a minute.
Add a mixed bowl of 3 spoons of gluten-free soy sauce and 10 gr of melted palm sugar (or maple syrup).
Add tempeh cubes, season with salt, pepper, and a bit of vegetable broth.
Serve with jasmine rice or your favourite main dish.
Have fun trying the recipe and don’t be shy to share it on our social media pages! We at naanu always try to make your plant-based lifestyle healthier, easier, and more enjoyable. That’s why our cookies provide you with Vitamin B12, D, Omega-3, Calcium, Iron, and Zinc to give your daily vegan nutrients.
Stay happy and healthy!