Although tempeh is perhaps less well known than tofu, it’s equally versatile and tasty, rich in vegetable proteins and vitamins. Tempeh is great for preparing stews, pan-tossed dishes and meatless rissoles, as well as for frying, dipping in piquant sauces or filling fresh ravioli. If you're not familiar with tempeh, our article is the right place for you. You will learn everything you need to know about tempeh.
What Is Tempeh?
Tempeh is a soybean product which is layered and fermented with a mould called Rhizopus Ogliosporus. The fermentation makes the starches easier to digest, resulting in a compact, whitish block after the fermentation process.
While tempeh can have many different varieties, its base is always fermented soybeans, which can be flavoured with other ingredients, such as soybean pulp, banana leaves and coconut.
Now that you know what tempeh is, it's time to learn more about its origin and history. Tempeh originated in Indonesia and has been produced there for over 1,500 years. It’s still one of Indonesia's most widely consumed protein foods. In the early 19th century, tempeh was first mentioned in a famous history book from the island of Java – the Serat Centhini, a compilation of Javanese stories.
These days, tempeh has become popular outside of Indonesia, especially as a meat substitute, and has been integrated into many dishes. It's, in fact, an essential ingredient in vegetarian and vegan cuisine, even though it’s still generally less well known than seitan or tofu.
What does it taste like?
Its flavour is earthy, mushroom-like, slightly salty, and nutty – tempeh is often compared to walnuts. Tempeh’s flavour is also considered a neutral flavour, making it versatile when used in cooking.
Tempeh contains 18.54 grams of protein, 9.39 grams of carbohydrates, 10.80 grams of fat, 9 milligrams of sodium and 59.65 grams of water per 100 grams and does not contain sugar, providing 193 calories, 10% of the daily requirement. In addition, its nutrients include Vitamin B-9 (24 mg) and Vitamin B-3 (2.6 mg), Potassium (412 mg), Phosphorus (266 mg) and Calcium (111 mg).
As far as protein is concerned, 100 grams per day covers almost 40% of the daily requirement.
Is tempeh healthy?
Absolutely yes. Tempeh is special because it’s fermented – fermented food contains live and active cultures (probiotics) that can promote gut health. It's also a good source of fibre, proteins, vitamins, and minerals, including magnesium, potassium and zinc. It has all the qualities of tofu, a widely-acclaimed superfood, and takes them a little further.
How to eat tempeh
Fresh tempeh does not look or taste particularly appetising on its own, but it can be a delicious ingredient with a fantastic texture when used in the right recipe. A typical example? One of the most popular vegan recipes is pea soup with tempeh.
For those wishing to experiment with it in the kitchen, try tossing it in a pan with a small amount of olive oil, together with a stir-fry of leeks, carrots, pineapple, and green peppers, to be served with a spicy bitter-sweet sauce and dressing the dish before serving. Those unable to pursue gourmet recipes can nonetheless prepare a tasty aperitif snack to share with friends by frying thin slices of tempeh in boiling oil. These can then be seasoned with a mix of coarse salt, paprika and freshly ground coriander seeds.
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