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Tempeh — tofu's lesser-known relative, but perhaps not for long! Tempeh is quickly moving up in the ranks as you can now find it in supermarkets and restaurants, as opposed to just health stores. But what exactly is this intriguing plant food that's showing up in the vegan scene at the moment?
Indonesian's have been using tempeh in their cooking for many, many years. It's made from soybeans, however, unlike tofu, it is comprised of the whole soybeans as opposed to the liquid (making it the less processed option). The soybeans are cooked, fermented, and then formed into a convenient block.
Tempeh has a savoury, nutty flavour that some might describe as 'earthy'. It's undoubtedly an acquired taste, but there are plenty of people that prefer it over tofu. Similarly to tofu, it's a neutral canvas for a variety of dishes and can easily take on the flavour of whatever you want. Tempeh is often used as a replacement for bacon and ribs due to its slightly chewy texture. And although it's an ingredient most commonly used in Asian cuisine, it can suit almost any dish.
This plant-based protein has been around for thousands of years and yet has only recently become easily accessible in the Western world. As you might have noticed, tempeh has become a popular meat replacement in vegan cooking. If you're not crazy about processed meat replacements or would just like to reduce your intake of highly processed foods, then tempeh will be perfect for you.
Good source of calcium
Good source of protein
Good source of fibre
Contains some B vitamins
Low in carbohydrates
Low in sodium
Free of cholesterol
You can't expect your first time cooking tempeh to be perfect. Mine definitely wasn't! It takes a bit of practice to prepare and cook it to your liking, and I suppose this could be because you can cook it in so many ways. That's part of the beauty of tempeh - it's versatile. You can pan-fry it, bake it, steam it; you name it!
Just like with most foods, it always tastes best when seasoned or marinated. You can use a seasoning that's made for meat to make it even more realistic. Most marinades and sauces would work well with tempeh, but I recommend something soy-sauce based or perhaps BBQ sauce. When first cooking tempeh, I made sure to incorporate it in a dish that I would otherwise use tofu in, so at least there's some familiarity when you first try it out. It's not unlike tofu in the way that you prepare and cook it, but one big difference is that you don't have to press it beforehand - which is a huge bonus!
Some recipes might recommend that you soften the tempeh before cooking, which means to steam it for several minutes to reduce any bitter flavour and make it take on sauce or seasoning better.