Tempted to try tempeh but you do not know anything about it? Here’s a crash course on this food that is over a hundred old. Tempeh is the product of the Indonesians’ ingenious way of making solid food by fermenting soybean. They use live mold called tempeh starter to trigger the fermentation process, and in a day or two, the cake-like tempeh is ready.
Tempeh or tofu? It is easy to confuse the two especially for those who are not familiar with tempeh and tofu. Tempeh and tofu are both processed soy products; however, tofu is soy milk-based while tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Both are also excellent choices for animal-protein replacement in your diet. Tofu varies depending on texture, firmness, and consistency (i.e. silken, soft, firm, etc.) while for tempeh, it is about coming in different flavors (i.e. barbecue, curry, etc). Commonly, tempeh and tofu are used interchangeably when cooking, but tempeh is preferred if the dish requires ingredients to be firm and sturdy since tofu is softer compared to tempeh.
- Tempeh is one of the best when it comes to meatless protein sources, in the same rank as beans and lentils.
- There is a belief that tempeh was made by accident, from soybean residue that has been discarded but because of contact with spores, it grew into edible whitish fungi.
- As a food, it doesn’t look much. But don’t judge it by its mere appearance. Tempeh is loaded with probiotics, antioxidants, and isoflavones.
- The people of Java, Indonesia have known about soybeans since the 12th century. It was the Chinese who taught them how to make tofu in the 17th century.
Tempeh Buying Guide
Where to buy tempeh? Your first stop should be the supermarket or grocery. If it is not available there, look for specialty stores selling tempeh. Your last option is ordering online. Ordering online is convenient, but buying from the store is still better because you can inspect the product before you pay for it.
If this is your first time eating tempeh, you should buy in small quantities first because there is a chance you may not like it, and should this happen, it is a good thing you didn’t buy a lot, right?
If this is your first time buying tempeh, and you don’t know which brand to buy, ask friends for recommendations or read online reviews on the best tempeh available to you. Unlike other food products manufactured by popular and well-known commercial brands, tempeh is largely a local product and the best brands are those made by local makers, so it varies from place to place. Texans will most likely buy local Texas tempeh over tempeh made and sold in other states or abroad unless someone is very specific or very picky about their preferences.
Check the expiration date or best-before date. If you are planning to cook or eat these later, make sure to buy tempeh with an expiration or best before date suitable to the date you are planning to cook or consume it.
Check the packaging for signs of tampering or product safety issues. The safety and quality of the product may have been compromised during transport and handling. In any case, do not buy tempeh with damaged packaging. Report this to the store attendant so that it is checked, and if necessary, removed from the freezer or shelf to avoid having customers less attentive to details buy it.
Tempeh Production & Farming in Texas
Tempeh is made and sold in Texas. There are many stores and businesses that offer Texas tempeh, like The Hearty Vegan, which is considered the first commercial tempeh producer in Texas. There are others too like The Flying Tempeh Bros in Austin and Wiwas Tempeh in Houston. There are also many restaurants in Texas where you can eat tempeh-based dishes.
Órale!, which is based in Austin, Texas, even sells non-soy tempeh made from black-eyed pea.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Additives found in tempeh are usually to infuse flavor (i.e. barbecue flavor or curry flavor, to name a few).
Tempeh is originally from Indonesia. Now, tempeh is popular in other Asian countries like Malaysia and China, as well as outside Asia. Indonesian immigrants started tempeh businesses in Europe which explains why there is a tempeh market in this region too. In the US, tempeh became known to Americans in 1946 and the interest grew beginning in the 1960s. There were efforts to introduce tempeh in Africa but the lack of experience of the locals on mold-fermented foods caused such enterprise to fail, although today, there are sources of tempeh in South Africa and North Africa.
Tempeh is sold in food-grade wrapping paper and perforated polyethylene bags, for an optimal shelf life of up to three days. Tempeh is also sold in a labeled, non-perforated bag for distribution and sale. You can also find tempeh sold in glass bottles and boxes in the grocery or supermarket. The packaging should contain important product information like the name of the manufacturer and where the product was made, ingredients and nutritional data, expiration or best-before date, and storage and handling instructions, among other things.
The first time you eat tempeh, you will notice that it has a nutty flavor, different from the oftentimes bland flavor of tofu (which relies on dips and seasonings to taste).
Eating tempeh is a way to provide the body with protein, fiber, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, and phosphorus. Eating tempeh is good because it will help you keep cancer away and keep your heart healthy as well. Tempeh also promotes healthy gut bacteria for a healthier digestive system. This food which is rich in essential nutrients can help the body in keeping cholesterol levels down and at the same time aid in bone health, stabilize blood sugar, and promote muscle recovery.
If you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can eat tempeh. In traditional Chinese medicine, eating tempeh is considered helpful.
Tempeh requires storage in either refrigerator or freezer. To prevent the onset of spoilage, avoid leaving tempeh at room temperature for a long time. In the refrigerator, tempeh will keep for 10 days. When frozen, tempeh will keep for 12 months. Another storage method is drying tempeh using a dehydrator that will turn tempeh into crisps, which will keep longer in storage.
Make your own tempeh and broccoli in teriyaki sauce
Tempeh is a great source of protein. If you are avoiding or minimizing eating meat for health reasons, you can still enjoy some of your favorite meat-based food and dishes by using tempeh instead of meat. One example is the classic beef with broccoli. This delicious food is enjoyed all around the world. Now you can indulge without feeling guilty because you can use tempeh instead of beef for this dish. This is very easy to make. It will just take 5 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes to cook, and you can have this for lunch or dinner.
This recipe serves 3
- 1 8-oz pack of tempeh. Cut tempeh into ¼ inch strips
- 1/2 pound of fresh broccoli, chopped into bite-size florets
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/8 cup cooking oil
- chopped scallions and sesame seeds for garnish
Teriyaki sauce ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger grated or minced
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
Step 1. Make the teriyaki sauce by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
Step 2. Sauté the tempeh until brown. Use a large skillet over medium-low heat. Use oil only to keep the pan from drying.
Step 3. Mix the teriyaki sauce with the brown tempeh. Add the nutritional yeast and mix.
Step 4. Toss in broccoli florets and garlic into the pan. Sauté and then let simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 5. Serve with cooked rice.