Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tempeh

Apparently I've caused something of a tempeh stir in the midwest. So I thought it might be good to answer some of the questions all at once because I'm getting a lot of the same questions.
First: Understand that tempeh is a soybean product but it is different than tofu. Tempeh is hulled soybeans, cooked and pressed until they are fermented. Tempeh has a visible bean, nutty texture and flavor. Tempeh has a light nutty flavor but does take on the flavor of what it is cooked with. Its easily grill-able, and its rough texture is going to be more palatable to average midwesterner. Tempeh is pictured below on the left. Tofu is on the right.

Tofu is a little like cheese made from soymilk curds. Tofu looks a little like a soft cheese and for the most part tofu has no real flavor of its own. Its brilliantly adaptable to whatever its cooked with. From what I know about tofu, the more it marinades the more flavor it takes on. Most often in Asian cooking its light flavor complements the other light flavors of soups. If you are look for big flavors of curries, spice or heavy food, tofu is going to taste bland. But if you are into delicate flavors, well, you're going to like tofu. Now this is just me, but if you are average midwesterner, tofu is probably not going to be a natural love; its going to be an acquired taste thing.
Let me tell you what I know about tempeh because I'm finding that my house likes it. Tofu not so much, maybe I'll get older and I'll love but for now, not so much.
Tempeh is good for you. Its a legume fiber protein. Good for your gastric/ colon health because its a fiber. Good for your body because its a protein that doesn't involve fat and cholesterol. I don't know a lot about health but I know that if I can get a protein not from red meat, that's good. And who doesn't have a better day when they've had a proper amount of fiber.
What to do if you're new to tempeh? Try to have it by someone who really knows how to make it first. If there is a restaurant that you go to and you love the food and they have tempeh on the menu, give it a go. Now if you are average midwesterner, you scoff at that because you're local restaurant may not know anything about tempeh. Granted. So here's your next option. Go to your grocery and start looking in the produce section for tempeh. Its dicey if it will be there but look amongst the vegetarian/ vegan refrigerated produce section. Surprisingly it maybe on the pricey side- Why? Because the store doesn't sell that much of it. Decide that this could be part of your entertainment budget. You're going to crack up your family anyway with the experience and how is that not entertainment? Here's a recipe to try.
**this is VERY LOOSELY adapted from 101 Cookbooks
8 ounces tempeh (how much you bought and you want)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (i used cider vinegar)
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon powdered chipotle (or a couple pinches of cayenne)
Slice the tempeh in thinnish slices. Thick enougth to hold together and not fall apart. Set the tempeh aside while you make the maple marinade by combining the soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, garlic, and chipotle powder in a small bowl. Reserve a few tablespoons of the marinade to use later as a drizzle.
Place the pieces of tempeh flat in a large baking dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the tempeh. Make sure the tops and bottoms are coated and marinate for anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 days, flipping occasionally.
Grill the tempeh on a medium hot grill for a few minutes on each side. I used a George Foreman type griller but I think you could use a hot lightly oiled skillet. Brush with the marinade remaining in the bottom of the baking dish. When the tempeh is a toasted, deep, maple-y, golden brown remove and enjoy on a sandwich, over rice, or however you like.
I suggest making a pot of rice and some stir fried veggies with a little of the leftover marinade thrown about on top of the veggies while cooking.


Give this a try. Its worth the experience and you'll have something to talk about with your girlfriends. You're coolness factor is going to go through the roof.

This is the site I used for the Tempeh picture and I'm going to be poking through for the next few days. We're still getting around tempeh at our house too but its one I'm finding success with. Last evening we had BBQ Tempeh on baked potatoes. Jonathan sat back from the table and said "I really enjoyed that meal". That's huge praise for Tempeh coming from Jonathan and he's given the green light to proceed with the experiment. Now if your family doesn't say that, don't force the issue with them (unless they are crazy picky eaters and then its time for them to stop). But enter with an open mind, not an EWW attitude. Most likely you don't know if you like it because you've never had it.
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