Tempeh, or tempe in Javanese, is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. It is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh's fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber and vitamins compared to tofu, as well as firmer texture and stronger flavor. Tofu, however, is thought to be more versatile in dishes. Because of its nutritional value, tempeh is used worldwide in vegetarian cuisine; some consider it to be a meat analogue. Even long before people found and realized its rich nutritional value, tempeh was referred to as “Javanese meat.”
Tempeh begins with whole soybeans, which are softened by soaking and dehulled, then partly cooked. Specialty tempehs may be made from other types of beans, wheat, or may include a mixture of beans and whole grains.
A mild acidulent, usually vinegar, may be added in order to lower the pH and create a selective environment that favors the growth of the tempeh mold over competitors. A fermentation starter containing the spores of fungus Rhizopus oligosporus is mixed in. The beans are spread into a thin layer and are allowed to ferment for 24 to 36 hours at a temperature around 30°C (86°F). In good tempeh, the beans are knit together by a mat of white mycelia.
Under conditions of lower temperature, or higher ventilation, gray or black patches of spores may form on the surface—this is not harmful, and should not affect the flavor or quality of the tempeh. This sporulation is normal on fully mature tempeh. A mild ammonia smell may accompany good tempeh as it ferments, but it should not be overpowering. In Indonesia, ripe tempeh (two or more days old) is considered a delicacy.
In the kitchen, tempeh is often prepared by cutting it into pieces, soaking in brine or salty sauce, and then frying. Cooked tempeh can be eaten alone, or used in chili, stir frys, soups, salads, sandwiches, and stews. Recent popular vegan cookbooks, such as Isa Chandra Moskowitz's "Vegan with a Vengeance", have come up with more creative ways of cooking tempeh, using it as a vegetarian substitution for breakfast meats, such as sausage and bacon. Tempeh has a complex flavor that has been described as nutty, meaty, and mushroom-like. Tempeh freezes well, and is now commonly available in many western supermarkets as well as in ethnic markets and health food stores. Tempeh performs well in a cheese grater, after which it may be used in the place of ground beef (as in tacos). When thin sliced and deep fried in oil, tempeh obtains a crispy golden crust while maintaining a soft interior—its sponge-like consistency make it suitable for marinades. Dried tempeh (whether cooked or raw) provides an excellent stew base for backpackers. For the Thanksgiving holiday, tempeh (as dark meat) and tofu (as white) may each be thick-sliced and baked with a standard dressing/stuffing preparation to provide a vegan alternative to turkey.
|tempe bongkrèk||made from or with coconut press cake (see below)|
|tempe bosok (busuk)||rotten tempeh, used in small amounts as a flavouring|
|tempe gembus||made from okara|
|tempe gódhóng||tempeh made in banana leaves|
|tempe goreng||deep-fried tempeh|
|tempe mendoan||raw-fried tempeh|
|tempe kedelai||simply tempeh, made from soybeans|
|tempe murni||tempeh made in plastic wrap (lit. pure soybean cake)|
|tempe oncom||also onchom; made from peanut press cake; orange color; Neurospora sitophila|
A new form of tempeh based on barley and oats instead of soya was developed by scientists at the Swedish Department of Food Science in 2008. It can be produced in climate regions where it is not possible to grow soya beans.
Fatalities from contaminated tempe bongkrèk were once common in the area where it was produced. Thus, the sale of tempeh bongkrèk is prohibited by law nowadays; clandestine manufacture continues however due to the superior culinary value. The problem of contamination is not encountered with bean or grain tempeh, which have a different composition of fatty acids that is not favorable for the growth of B. cocovenenans but encourages growth of Rhizopus instead. When bean or grain tempeh has the proper color, texture and smell, it is a very strong indication that the product is safe. Tempe bongkrèk which is yellow is always highly toxic due to toxoflavin, but tempe bongkrèk with a normal coloration may still contain lethal amounts of bongkrek acid.
Turn in the weather? Turn to tempeh! Learn tempeh stand-ins for your fall favorites from Georgia Smith.(soul kitchen)(Recipe)
Nov 01, 2008; [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] The days of autumn have started to turn chillier and darker. But, not all is grim, as the chilly weather...