A whole soybean based food, tempeh has been a staple in Indonesia for hundreds, possible thousands, of years and is still building popularity in the West. Less familiar than it’s close cousin, TOFU, tempeh most likely originated on the island of Java in present day Indonesia, unlike tofu, which came from China and Japan.
Whereas tofu starts with soybeans boiled and and made into a milk, tempeh is simply whole soybeans that have been fermented with grain, usually rice. Less processed than tofu and making use of the WHOLE BEAN, tempeh tends to be easier to digest, is higher in protein, and higher in fibre than tofu. I personally love the mouth-feel you get when eating tempeh as it gives you more of a textured bite than tofu.
The flavour of tempeh is very different from that of tofu. It is nutty, earthy and somewhat sweet, whereas tofu is very neutral. Tempeh is firm and chewy in texture and tofu of more smooth and spongy. The fermentation process causes it to have somewhat of a bitter edge to it when tasted in it’s ‘uncooked’ state, but once you prep is for use by steaming it first, this eliminates the slightly bitterness taste and makes is absolutely rich tasting and yummmmm!!!!
Whether you’re going to saute it, grill it, deep fry it, crumble it into chili, marinade it and then bake it- steaming first for 10 minutes to ‘open it up’ and allow it to ‘expand’ is a step I encourage. This step allows the flavours to carry through the tempeh. Once you smell it’s nutty aroma and you see it lighten a bit (from tan to a whiter colour), it’s sufficiently steamed.
A half cup (4 ounces) of tempeh has 41% of our required daily allowance of protein, 48% of healthy fibre, and is very high in trace minerals (phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and copper), and and vitamin B2 and vitamin K. Because of the fermentation process to create tempeh, it makes the protein highly absorbable and digestible and will allow it to be used quickly and effectively by our cells.
Here’s some ideas to ‘make and create’ with this protein staple (that I keep in my freezer pantry):
1. Cube it (season it if you want to) and fry it up in a little coconut oil. These cubes can be used in salads as croutons or skewer them and serve with a dip as a cocktail appetizer or toss in a veggie stir-fry.
2. Crumble steamed tempeh into pasta sauce or chili for a ‘meaty’ bolognese texture.
3. Crumble tempeh and fry it up – add crumbled tempeh and mix with taco seasonings for a Mexican lunch or dinner.
4. Marinate steamed tempeh in ‘Rueben’ juice (beet juice and pickling juice) and fry it in a frying pan to make a REUBEN!! Top with Daiya cheeze, sauerkraut and Vegan Russian Dressing. We serve these at Lettuce Love Cafe.
5. Thinly slice and marinade it in tamari, olive oil and a little fresh garlic…..then fry it until kind of crispy- very yum! Use in Avocado, Tomato and Lettuce Sandwiches.
6. AND Tempeh freezes very well, so there’s no excuse if you don’t have any in your kitchen.
Remember to always have fun in your kitchen! Food experimentation should be an enjoyment, not a stressor.
Grab your significant other, your kids, or just have some of your own time in the kitchen and really feel the nutrition and health that you will be nibbling on. Tempeh is so easy to work with and you honestly cannot really make a mistake working with it – it’s very forgiving.
LOVE your food! Care about your health! Enjoy the changes you are making in your life! By cooking this way, there’s no harmful saturated fats, no heart-clogging cholesterol, no animal proteins like casein (tumour growth causing ingredient), and you will be getting fibre (you can’t get fibre from animal-based protein), highly assimilated plant protein that your body can easily use, healthy fats our bodies need, healthy carbs, and tons of micronutrients- you really don’t want to miss this delicious food!
And you will be kind to your body, kind to the planet and kind to the animals.