Tofu, tempeh, seitan

Three of the staple proteins of a vegetarian or vegan diet.

They aren’t processed foods in the style of the factory product Quorn (made from mycoprotein – a fancy process involving fungal spores in huge vats) but rather ages old products originating in Asia, where strict Buddhists have long been innovative in their vegetarian diets.

Tofu and tempeh are both soy products, tofu is basically pressed bean curd, tempeh is fermented soy, and seitan is spun wheat gluten. Apparently if you like to make a mess, you can make these at home.

So if you have an allergy to soy and wheat don’t try any of them. Otherwise they are extremely versatile.

They are usually available in health food shops in Europe (no idea about North America or Australasia) and tofu is available in most Chinese shops anywhere (to my knowledge) and in some UK supermarkets.

What do you do with them?

Well, anything is the short answer.

Fry them, casserole them, marinate them, put them in sandwiches, add them to salads, put them on kebabs ….

Tofu

Commonly used in stir frys, and often marinated in soy sauce beforehand. It’s got a bland flavour (well no flavour really) so takes well to absorbing other flavours.

Can also be fried in flour/egg/breadcrumbs to provide a crispy outside with a soft textured interior, served with sauce/s of choice.

For casseroles, I tend to use it in chicken-based style recipes as their delicate flavours/sauces tend to complement its texture and the tofu easily absorbs the flavours of herbs, white wine, tomatoes, mushrooms etc

Tempeh

This has a totally different and much more solid texture, and has a distinctive taste too. It also benefits from being briefly marinated in tamari (or soy sauce of choice).

It can be bought in some stores as tofu rashers which vaguely resemble bacon, hence the name. I tend to buy it unflavoured, marinate it in tamari and slice it for rashers.

As for general recipes, I use it in chicken recipes, light meat (eg lamb, pork, some game) and where ham/bacon are called for.

Great in sandwiches.

It combines well with both tofu and seitan.

Seitan

Seitan has the strongest flavour and the chewiest texture of the three. I use this one in beef-style recipes.

Spanish vegetarian restaurants tend to do superb seitan fritters, but the Spanish are great at fried food, managing to get it crisp yet not oily.

Like tempeh, it’s also great in sandwiches, especially burger style, with onions, salad and trimmings.

The header photo shows a seitan goulash.

I’ll add recipes in sub-pages.

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7 comments on “Tofu, tempeh, seitan

    • Thank you for asking. I really should have explained earlier, even though I thought I had. But your comment and a couple of others made me realise I needed to give a brief summary.

      Because I have been vegetarian for so long it’s easy to forget that non-vegs have no idea about what we eat!

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  1. Is there a local producer of tofu on the island? Or is it imported stuff that you have to use.

    And would local Spaniards be interested in /use tofu much at all?

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    • No local producer that I know of. (Not an island, a peninsula on the southern end of Europe, attached to Spain by an isthmus).

      We do have our own coffee roasting firm though :)

      Anyway, back to tofu. It is imported from either Spain or the UK. Morrisons sells Cauldron tofu from the UK which is pretty cheap. The health food shop I use sells Spanish tofu which is organic but more expensive.

      We do have/had a couple of Chinese restaurants in Gib plus a Thai one, so they need to buy tofu from somewhere, unless they make it which I doubt very much. Always sounded like an incredible faff to me.

      It’s not just local Spaniards and or Gibbos buying tofu in Gib. Gibraltar has a shopping population catchment area with a radius of at least 200kms. That is an awful lot of people, many of whom are Northern European migrants. In Spain, virtually all health food shops stock tofu. Someone must eat it apart from me! There are Chinese shops in big cities like Málaga where you can buy it, but normally our Gib supermarket is cheaper.

      Beyond me why tofu disappears so fast off the shelves because who eats tofu? but today there were three packs left when my partner went to the supermarket and he took one of them. He also took one of the last three remaining packs of veg sausages. I’ve never yet met a vegetarian in Gib so I don’t know who is stealing all my food. We normally keep two packs of tofu in the fridge because sometimes the supermarket runs out for days or weeks.

      And while I have no idea about domestic use, Spanish veg restaurants are excellent at cooking tofu. Plus, of course, there is an increasing community of Chinese in Spain.

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    • Given your sometime cravings for fried food, all three work well fried crisply – the important thing is getting the accompaniments/sauces right, and any marinading beforehand. I’m planning on fried tempeh and potato cakes from yesterday’s left over mash. You can get both seitan and tempeh in jars, or often fresh in the fridge compartment of a health food shop.

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