Tempeh, for those of you who don’t know, is a vegetarian soya-based product.
No, it is not TVP, and no it is not something that has been concocted in a lab and churned out in a factory. There may well be factories that produce it these days, but it is a natural food from Indonesia – and depending on which site you read – dates back a couple of thousand years.
It’s made out of fermented soya beans, check out the great picture on this wiki link about it where fresh tempeh cakes are wrapped in banana leaves. In Europe it is sold either fresh in vacuum packs, or in jars where it is stored in a seaweed-based solution.
The jar costs about 4€ and the fresh stuff I have recently been able to buy is 3.18€ for 250gms or 5.90ish€ for 500gms. They are all organic and produced in Spain.
The small pack does me for about three meals, and the other one for five or six – depending on what I am cooking, so with a little care, it doesn’t work out too expensive.
In the UK I could also buy tempeh rashers. These, dear non-vegetarian reader if you are still with me, are how vegetarians happily survive without bacon. You can also buy quorn rashers – which are not a patch on tempeh, and far more processed as far as I can see. So as I haven’t found any tempeh rashers in Spain or Gib I make my own.
Slice tempeh thinly and marinate for an hour or so in tamari and whatever else you fancy.
Fry quickly and add to sandwich or dish up on plate with mushies, toms, whatever you prefer, eg my earlier post about the bedroom renovation has a tempeh brunch photo.
Otherwise it is perfect in casserole, especially if, like me, you tend to adapt meat-based ones. Whenever there is a mention of slices or pieces of ham or bacon – add that versatile tempeh instead.
As it is mid-way between the rather bland and soft tofu, and the chewy, stronger tasting seitan, it combines well with both of them. So a casserole of tempeh and seitan, or tempeh and tofu, works really well.
And one of the easiest ways to serve it, is to marinade it (or not), quickly fry it, and serve with hot dipping sauces Indonesian style, with a couple of salads. Ingredients for the sauces are invariably: garlic, chillies, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, tamari. Take your pick of what you feel like combining.
I have read some controversy about soya products – and there seems to be a ‘soy is not so good for your health after all’ campaign floating around the place.
Quite frankly I wouldn’t have thought it was half as bad as eating bits of dead animals that were infected with BSE or injected up to their eyeballs with steroids, growth hormones etc etc but each to their own.
This post is not about GM, but I was horrified to read that most of the US crop of soy is modified in some way. Whether that is true or not I think it is worth paying the extra for organic soya products and so guaranteeing they are GM free.
Both tempeh and tofu are minimalist soy products with very few extra ingredients. The tempeh I marinated today has four ingredients: soya (organic), water, apple vinegar (organic) and the starter. If you can get your hands on the starter you can make tempeh at home. Just as you can tofu. I don’t think I’ll be trying it, but that’s why they are both pretty old products that have been around for zillions of years.
Soy products are not of themselves either intrinsically bad or unhealthy. If you buy something that is full of junk – by which I mean additives, colourings, a shitload of E numbers, sugar, etc etc – it is by default hardly going to be the healthiest meal on earth whether it is based on meat or soy.
Choose your products carefully and there should be no ‘unhealthy’ issues. Here is an interesting link about soy products.
Next up – protein. One of the most common and totally boring myths about a vegetarian diet is that we lack protein. Ovo-lacto vegetarians can shovel it in via eggs and dairy produce, although that would not be my recommend. Not much point from a personal health perspective, in giving up meat, only to overdo it on eggs, cheese, milk, cream, yoghurt, butter.
Then there are nuts, which are incredibly protein rich. And the pulses. And the three products I have mentioned – tofu, tempeh, and seitan. So no, vegetarians do not lack direct protein sources. Plus you can get into the whole complementary protein issue if you are so inclined.
People obsess over getting enough protein when they should be focusing on getting a balanced diet that also includes sufficient minerals and vitamins. I’m convinced the whole protein thing dates back at least fifty years when people were exhorted to eat meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and dairy products. Of course, some years ago in the UK we moved onto five different Good Things. Five portions of fruit and veg a day. There must be some mystique about the figure five and nutrition.
Truth is that moderation and me are not words that readily go together. But for eating – I think moderation is the key. Ignore government
progaganda advice, invariably it is funded/supported/manipulated by industries and lobby groups, and of course people’s personal prejudices. Just like my blog really in respect of that last issue.
If you check out the links I have included with this post then you can see that tempeh is a pretty healthy product. It’s also very tasty. If you are vegetarian and you don’t know about it – find it. And if you aren’t – try it anyway. You may well be doing yourself and one less dead animal a healthy favour.
A couple more interesting links:
And no this is not just a recipe blog, so I will write a non-food post tomorrow. I think. Although I do have something to say about pizza……