Once upon a time, not so long ago, the world of food was split more of less into two camps: carnivores and vegeterians. But with the rise of flexitarianism, meat-free Mondays and an ever-improving range of substitutes, even the most militant of meat eaters can now often be tempted into trying something different.
Enter: tempeh. Having been long-used in Indonesian cooking - and we're talking thousands of years here - it's finally making its way into the UK foodie scene. If you've seen it on the menu and aren't quite sure what to make of it, we're here to help.
What is tempeh?
Put simply, tempeh is a patty that’s traditionally created from soybeans, although it can also be made from other kinds of beans, legumes, grains, nuts or seeds. In order to make it, the soybeans are cooked and fermented into blocks, and is usually cooked before serving. High in protein, it’s often used as a meat replacement in meals such as burgers, stir-frys and sandwiches – you can even get tempeh bacon!
What’s the difference between tempeh and tofu?
Like tofu, tempeh is a soy-based product, but is made from soybean, where tofu is made from soy curd. As a result, it takes on a slightly nuttier taste, compared to tofu’s more neutral flavour; texture-wise, tempeh tends to be slightly chewier. Due to the fact that tempeh is fermented, while tofu is not, many people also find tempeh easier to digest.
Is tempeh healthy?
In a word, yes! It’s high in protein, unprocessed, low in cholesterol, an excellent source of fibre and is packed full of vitamins and minerals needed to support good health, including B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. What’s more, the fact that it’s naturally fermented means that it contains gut-friendly microbes and bacteria, such as pre-biotics, that can boost your gut diversity and in turn, strengthen the immune system. For maximum gut-boosting qualities, look out for tempeh that is unpasteurised.
How long does tempeh last?
Generally, it’s recommended that unpasteurized tempeh is kept in the freezer and it will last longer this way. The fact that it contains live cultures means that when stored in the fridge it will continue fermenting, and although this will give it a more mature, nuttier flavour, it limits its shelf life to 5-7 days.
What’s a great tempeh recipe?
Far from just good for a vegan burger, tempeh is hugely versatile. We asked the team behind Club Cultured, who'll be bringing their tempeh dishes to Balance Festival 2020, for something to get us going...
Hearty Tempeh Stir Fry
100g Tempeh cut into small cubes
1kg sliced button mushrooms
500g sliced field mushrooms
500ml water x 2
100ml soy sauce
2 crushed garlic gloves
1 inch piece of ginger
3 pieces of Tender stem broccoli
2 spring onions
1 sheet nori
3 baby carrots
1 portion of dried noodles
200g sliced field mushrooms - to garnish
For the marinade:
200ml soy sauce
1. Heat a medium sized pan to a medium/high temperature then add the sliced button and field mushrooms to the pan with no oil - we cook the mushrooms with no oil so we have a clear dashi - and keep cooking until all the water has evaporated
2. Add the crushed garlic and allow the mushrooms to caramelize for 5-10 mins.
3. Add the 100ml soy sauce and reduce slightly, then add 500ml of water and simmer the stock until it has reduced by half.
4. Add the other 500ml water. Simmer for another 10 mins.
5. Now add the ginger and half of a chilli, infuse for 5mins and then strain into a clean pan.
6. Mix the other 100ml of soy and 50ml of maple together to make the sticky sweet marinade. Coat the Tempeh with the marinade, bake at 180c for 15 minutes Leave to cool.
7. Cook the broccoli, carrots and spring onions in a pan of boiling slightly salted water, slightly trim them so they are not too big.
8. Cook the packet dried noodles in either water or even the mushroom dashi, cook depending on the instruction notes.
9. Pan fry 200g sliced field mushrooms to use as a garnish
10. Grab a warm bowl, and place the noodles in the bowl followed by the glazed sticky tempeh and pan fried field mushrooms and then the medley of the baby carrots, broccoli and spring onions.
11. Pour over the hot dashi.
12. Garnished with the muhrooms, sliced chillies and 1 sheet of nori cut into strips.
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