What is tempeh?
Tempeh is made from soy beans, and is an alternative to tofu. Tofu is made from bean curd rather than the whole bean, so loses some of the fibres and nutrients from the soy beans, and is considered more processed. Tempeh on the other hand uses whole beans, contains about 50% more protein and more than 3x the fibre of tofu. It is considered ‘less processed’ as the soy beans go through less faffing to get to the end product. Some people apparently have trouble digesting tofu, but tempeh is supposed to be easier on the digestive system. So there you go.
I like having a wide range of dishes to turn to so I wanted to give tempeh a go. I used to struggle with tofu, but now have several go-to tofu meals that I love. Tempeh seems to be a lot less talked about and I think I know why:
It looks like a cross between a highly sweetcorny poo and the front of a pebble dashed house. I gallantly continued.
How to cook tempeh
I read several recipes and advice and a lot of them talk about boiling it. Apart from rice and pasta I never boil anything so I couldn’t be arsed with that. I then found a few ‘marinate and fry’ recipes so I decided to freestyle on that basis. My approach in the kitchen is alwaysalways that I know what I like better than the recipe writer, and I’m a constant substitutor if I don’t have the right ingredients in the house. In this case I mixed soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger powder and garlic powder in a bowl, sliced the tempeh pretty thinly, brushed the tempeh with the marinade and left it in the fridge for an hour. In retrospect, I’d probably add some chili or hot sauce next time to this mix.
I left it for an hour then heated up some seseame seed oil in a wok. Sesame seed oil has a hotter boiling point than things like olive oil so it’s great for when you want a high temperature. Also it tastes amazing, sort of toasty, nutty.
With this high-ish heat I only needed to do the slices for a couple of minutes each side before they turned a nice toasty colour. You might be wondering about the different shapes – I experimented with different ways of chopping the tempeh to see if it affected how well it stayed together – there was little difference, I’d stick with the slice like salami approach.
At the same time, I fried a leek in some coconut oil, then chucked in a tin of chickpeas, a generous amount of spinach and some pinenuts with a spoonful of Thai green curry paste in a saucepan. (Asda’s Thai curry pastes are vegan, but most other places and brands put fish sauce in so watch out). And here’s how it looked:
I served it with Thai sweet chili sauce.
Maybe 6/10 for tempeh and 8/10 overall. OK, so tempeh isn’t my fave. It’s quite dense, reminds me a lot of nut roast which I was never keen on specifically for that reason. Taste-wise, it tasted fine and its good to have different foods in your diet. I’d definitely make it spicier next time and try it again. To be honest, the leek and chickpea concoction was my fave part of the meal. Also a whole tempeh ‘sausage’ between two people is definitely too much! I would say that it’s good enough to give it another go but I can’t see it replacing tofu any time soon.
If you’ve got any of your own tempeh recommendations please let me know!
Love Kayley x
3 thoughts on “What is tempeh and what do you do with it?”
I tried tempeh in a restaurant last year and not knowing what to expect (apart from it being soy bean based), I wasn’t expecting the really dense texture and strong taste. I have to admit, I’d give it a 4-5/10 and knew I probably wouldn’t cook with it at home. I like that you’ve given it a shot and I like the leek and chickpea side of this dish (y)
I had heard about an earthy, bitter taste to it but I think the marinade and sesame oil frying helped to hide that as it wasn’t an issue for me. As it’s a healthy option, I would try it again but I’m not sure whether the frying negates some of that goodness! Definitely recommend the side dish though – maybe with crispy tofu!
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