How I Learned to Stop Scowling and Love the Tempeh


Homemade Tempeh
Originally uploaded by Ninaroid

The short history of me and tempeh:

Tempeh is not always easy to find in my quaint little city, so I haven’t had many occasions to experience first-hand the variety and unique texture of the hearty and healthy fermented soybean cake.

Not being a terribly big fan of the taste or texture of bean curd, I was keen to try out this much-lauded alternative to tofu. I grilled thin slices soaked in a bacon-style marinade, but it turns out I don’t miss bacon like I thought I would. In fact, I found the rich sweetness of the marinade to be so cloying it was inedible to me, and this taste trauma inevitably tainted my first real experience with tempeh.

After doing some research on the health benefits, the global community of tempeh lovers and the variety of recipes in which it was called for, I attempted to overcome my terrible first impression by incorporating the substance into my household’s go-to evening meal. I simmered chunky tempeh cubes (pre-boiled, as per internet tips on reducing bitterness) in a tomato-based veggie-ful sauce and served it with couscous. This time, I noticed a sharp tang and squeaky texture that I found surprising and disconcerting.

Finally, inspired by a giddy and hunger-induced simultaneous purchase of three packages of tempeh in the wake of my local supermarket restocking their meat analogue section, I decided to try tempeh once (or three times) more.

The ‘Chili sin Carne al Mole’ recipe from the deservedly-idolised Vegan with a Vengeance was calling me, and I decided to replace the seitan in the ingredient list with crumbled tempeh. And verily, I was converted.

Chili sin Carne al Mole

Here’s what I did: I took one 300g package of organic Nutrisoy Tasty Tempeh, then tied my jumper around my shoulders and went for a walk with my sweetie. Or, more accurately, I crumbled the tempeh into a big saucepan and sauteed it with some crushed garlic and yummy chili mole spices. The tempeh broke up nicely, became really soft and soaked up the flavours of the sauce, while adding a thick, chewy density to it. If there are any tempeh haters out there, please don’t be a cynic like me—swallow that pride and try the crumble-sautee method. You may just like it.

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7 thoughts on “How I Learned to Stop Scowling and Love the Tempeh

  1. i’m also a massive tempeh fan but, alas, my husband is not. nevermind, it’s all mine!

    i like to slice it and dry-fry it with masala spices…

  2. It took me a while to learn to like tempeh, but what helped was really enjoying the tempeh at Source in Highgate.

    The crumble method is great! I use it for a delicious bolognaise sauce.

  3. I actually just tried tempeh for the first time last week. And then I ate it again this week. I think I like it, but I need to experiment with it some more. I’ll have to give this a try!

  4. I love tempeh. I’ve never felt the need to preboil. It’s a great alternative to meat in stew-sort of dishes. I love rendang, the Malaysian curry. You can make the spicy coconutty sauce and add tempeh instead of beef. Delicious.

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