What Is Tempeh and How to Use It?
Not many people know tempeh, let alone appreciate its taste and many uses. This is a type of food that can be baffling to those who are not familiar with it. So, what is tempeh? How can you include it in your dishes? These are some of the questions that this article will hope to enlighten you with.
An Overview of Tempeh
Tempeh is an Indonesian staple. They look like blocks of peanut cakes. People cut these large blocks into thin slices like you would Spam. They can then deep fry it and dip in a spicy mixture of “sambal”. It is one of Indonesia’s best sources of plant-based proteins. Together with tofu, tempeh provides Indonesians and other Southeast Asian countries the protein that they need.
In case you are wondering what is tempeh made of, this food is made from soybeans. In a way, it is similar to tofu that also comes from soybeans. The only difference is that tempeh consists of whole soybeans. Tofu uses only soy milk.
Today, there are people in the United States and other countries that make this Indonesian plant-based protein. They often use ingredients other than soybeans. They use brown rice, millet, or barley. Others use other types of beans, like chickpeas, black beans, and black-eyed peas.
The Process of Making Tempeh
While there can be varying ingredients in making tempeh, the process remains the same. It requires partial cooking of the ingredients prior to its fermentation. Producers inoculate the partially-cooked beans with Rhizopus species of molds. They then spread the mold-inoculated beans into a thin layer. This allows for a more efficient fermentation.
The fermentation process will last about 24 to 36 hours. The process requires a constant temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit to facilitate the germination of mold spores. The soybeans begin to compress against each other as the rate of mold growth declines. It should be ready for harvest within 48 hours of inoculation.
Nutrition Profile of Tempeh
It is not surprising why many vegans and vegetarians love tempeh. It is an excellent source of protein without them having to consume meats and dairy products. A three-ounce serving of tempeh can provide 16 grams of protein. This is almost similar to an ounce of chicken breast. A 3-ounce serving of tofu, on the other hand, only provides about 9 grams of protein. This makes tempeh a much better choice when it comes to its protein content.
The carbohydrate content of tempeh is only 10 grams per 3 ounces. Seven grams of this is dietary fiber. Tofu only has 1 gram of dietary fiber. Tempeh also does not contain sugars. The fat content of tempeh is 4.5 grams per 3 ounces. It consists of about 3 grams of “good” unsaturated fats and only 1 gram of “bad” saturated fats. It does not contain cholesterol, either.
In addition to these macronutrients, tempeh is also a good source of iron, potassium, and calcium. These minerals help the body in the more efficient production of red blood cells. They can also be beneficial in the maintenance of normal muscle contractions and electrical nerve conduction. Tempeh can also aid in the strengthening of the bones.
The Taste of Tempeh
One of the reasons not many people like tempeh is its taste. Unlike the subtle flavors of tofu, tempeh has a nutty and savory taste. Some people describe the taste as somewhat similar to mushrooms. It can also have a hint of tanginess to it because of the process of fermentation.
It is important to recognize that the taste of tempeh depends on its production. Since there are other ingredients that manufacturers can use in making tempeh, it is possible to get a very different flavor profile. For instance, grains will not give you a distinct nutty flavor.
There are different ways on how to use tempeh. First, you can dice them and then sauté or stir fry with your favorite vegetables or grains. They are perfect with green beans and vegetable greens. In Asia, they are an excellent addition to noodle dishes.
There are people who like to mash tempeh and mix it with their favorite mayonnaise. They then add minced scallions and diced celery. If you are not vegan, small bits of cooked ham or cooked chicken strips will make the tempeh-based sandwich spread more enticing.
The easiest way on how to cook tempeh is by sautéing it like cutlets. You can slice it into thick strips like French fries and then sauté with other ingredients. If you want to enhance its flavors, you can marinate your tempeh slices.
You can also put it as a salad topping. Here is a simple salad recipe that you can make featuring tempeh.
- 4 ounces of tempeh, cut into strips
- ½ cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of oil
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1/3 teaspoon of ginger powder
- ¼ teaspoon of red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
- Boil the tempeh strips in ½ cup of water. Add the ginger powder, red chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Also add ½ teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 to 12 minutes. You want the tempeh to double in size. Make sure that the tempeh strips have absorbed all the fluid in the pot.
- Add oil and toss the tempeh. Add 2 teaspoons of maple syrup and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Toss to coat the tempeh strips. Allow the sauce to thicken.
- In a separate bowl, toss your favorite salad greens. Add some cherry tomatoes, mung bean sprouts, and the remaining maple syrup, lemon juice, and soy sauce. Toss well.
- Top your salad with the sizzling tempeh and sprinkle some sesame seeds.
Tempeh is a great alternative to meat proteins. It is also a rich source of protein and dietary fiber than tofu. Since it is a good substitute for meats, you can use tempeh in almost any other meat dish that you have in your cookbook.