Ingredient of the Week: Tempeh

Categories: The Basics

What is it?

Due to my self-imposed hiatus on all things derived from animal products (for Lent), I'm in previously uncharted territory when it comes to cooking and eating. One fateful discovery making my journey much more enjoyable is tempeh, a fermented soybean cake that originated in Indonesia.

While initially, it sounds very similar to tofu, there are big differences in the taste, texture and nutritional value because tempeh uses the whole soybean and requires much less processing. Because it's made from whole soybeans that have been soaked and softened as well as partially cooked, tempeh is denser, firmer and has a nuttier flavor.

The entire process starts by soaking dehulled soybeans and partially cooking them. Sometimes, other grains like brown rice are added, along with nuts or flaxseed. Then, the mixture is combined with a "starter" that gets fermentation going with the spores of a fungus called Rhizopus Oligosporus, and it's all spread in a thin layer to ferment away for the next 24 to 36 hours.

How is it used?

It's used as a source of protein and texture, and as a meat substitute. You can literally cook it any way possible - although I prefer it grilled, baked or pan fried. It also soaks up a salty marinade very well, which makes it flavorful and satisfying if you're avoiding meat.

Where can I find it in Houston?

I found several varieties at Whole Foods, but would love to know if any of you have another spot where you like to buy it.


Buffalo Style Grilled Tempeh

8 oz. tempeh cake
1 tbsp olive oil
2 - 3 tbsp vinegar-based cayenne hot sauce (we used Frank's Red Hot)
½ tsp garlic powder

Cut the tempeh into one-inch strips. Coat in thin layer of olive oil. Grill over high heat - about 5 minutes on each side, or until nice grill marks form (it doesn't take much at all). Toss in mixture of hot sauce and garlic powder and serve with ranch or bleu cheese dressing. If you don't like it too spicy, cut some of the hot sauce with a little melted butter (vegan butter works well too).

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My Voice Nation Help

In its original culinary philosophy, tempe, as well as tofu, is NEVER a meat substitute. It is as it is, a fermented soybean based food ingredient. Most tempe dishes are sauted or braised with animal/seafood protein. The easiest and widely found tempe dish in Indonesia is fried tempe (razor thin tempe + marinated in spice + fried-chicken-batter), eaten with rice or as snack by itself. The latter is my fav (complete with chili sauce - something like sriracha sauce).



Thought you would be interested in our easy method for making tempeh at home.http://www.makethebesttempeh.o... We produced Betsy's Tempeh in Mich. for 9 1/2 years and developed a new process without using plastic bags; our product came in both patty and grated form and customers loved how easy it was to use. Since retiring, we now want to share with everyone our easy process. As always, please feel free to write us for any questions, etc.Betsy Shipley

Dave Foong
Dave Foong

They're also sold at Ranch 99 frozen.My favorite application is probably to slice them thinly and pan fried till crisped, finished with a sprinkle of salt.The fried up tempeh is great on it's own, as a topping over fried rice/noodles, and even in curry.

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