- Tempeh is traditional to Indonesia, and especially popular in Java.
- Compared with tofu, tempeh contains more protein, vitamins and fibre because it is made from fermented whole soya.
- Soya beans are soaked, dehulled and partially cooked, then rhizopus ogliosporus fungus spores are added and its white mycelium knits the beans together. For this to happen, the beans have to be kept at around 30C. Tempeh ripens after a couple of days’ fermentation, but keeps on maturing when stored. The flavour (sort of mushroom-y, beany, nutty and cheese-y) gets stronger as it matures, and harmless dark spores may appear on the tempeh. Luckily, tempeh freezes well for longer storage.
- The nutritive value of tempeh is awesome- it has even made it onto the “World’s most Nutritious Foods” list. The starter culture (in Indonesia, anyway) contains bacteria that produce vitamin B12 (a rarely-sourced but essential vitamin if you’re vegan). It is not yet clear how much of the B12 can be absorbed, though. What makes tempeh so special is the fact it’s fermented; this means that the minerals and protein in the soya beans are more easily absorbed by the body. It’s 15% protein as opposed to tofu’s 10%, and has much more fibre. It is also a bit more calorific, but don’t let that put you off this amazing food. Soya contains many B vitamins (though not B12), choline and vitamin K, as well as the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. The protein in soya contains all 8 essential amino acids. and is therefore “complete”.
- Grilled, baked or fried, tempeh is delicious with a sprinkling of tamari sauce. It makes a great instant burger or sandwich filling, and of course can be used in a number of traditional ways in dishes like stir fries. You can even grate/ crumble tempeh to make “mince” for bologneses, chillis and tacos.
What’s your favourite way to eat tempeh?
PS: How’s this for an unusual tempeh dish- grilled/fried tempeh and marmalade on toast. I tried it. It’s delicious!