Tempeh is a delicious traditional soy product originating from Indonesia. It has a higher percentage of protein than tofu or eggs, more comparable to beef and chicken. Tempeh is high in essential fatty acids, calcium, iron, fiber, and potassium while being low in fat and sodium. It’s also cholesterol-free. The rich, nutty flavor and chewy texture make it extremely versatile in cooking.
An excellent example is The Hearty Vegan brand of Texas Tempeh, the first permitted producer in the state of Texas. In addition to their fantastic soy tempeh, they have recently started making alternative options out of black-eyed peas, black beans, and garbanzo beans. Texas Tempeh is gluten-free and made with 100% organic, non-GMO ingredients since 2004.
How is it made?
The process of making tempeh involves partially cooking beans, inoculating them with Rhizopus oligosporus spores, and incubating until the beans become a cake held together by dense white cottony mycelium.
Beans on their own are incredibly healthy but have enzyme-inhibitors. The fermentation process removes these inhibitors, making the beans more digestible. Enzymes break down the protein, fats, and carbohydrates in the beans. They transform the oils into free fatty acids, which contribute to the unique savory flavor. The fermenting process also makes the zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium in the beans more absorbable.
Texas Tempeh is frozen at its peak of flavor, keeping the mycelium intact as opposed to pasteurizing. Since freezing does not harm the texture, they preserve the beautiful fresh-from-the-incubator quality without the bitter taste that comes with pasteurization. We recommend keeping your tempeh frozen until you are ready to use it.
Sometimes there are black spots on tempeh, those are spores, similar to what is found on the underside of a mushroom. They are perfectly normal and edible. As the tempeh matures in the incubator, it begins its reproduction process and starts to sporulate. The black or gray patches indicate that the tempeh has matured to its peak of flavor. The aroma should be mushroom-like with possibly a hint of ammonia. If your tempeh ever becomes slimy or has colors other than black, white, or gray, it should not be eaten.
How do you use it?
Tempeh’s complex flavor has been described as an earthy umami taste and its texture firm and meaty. It is often steamed, fried, grilled, baked, or marinated and sauteed. It can be thinly sliced, cubed, or crumbled. Cooked tempeh can be eaten alone, or used in chili, stir-fries, soups, salads, sandwiches, and stews. A food this adaptable is excellent for creating many different types of unique dishes.
Tempeh is an incredible alternative for the increasing number of people who care about the impact of food on their health and the environment, and fortunately here in the Austin area, we are also able to support a great local business.