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Tempting Tempeh
Conan Milner, The Epoch Times
7/15/2007

"It's a really versatile food, says Matthew Ross, chef at the Lakeside Café, a vegetarian restaurant less than a mile from the Mu Tofu facility. "It holds up really well in Asian dishes. It works really well if you deep fry it, or you can pan sear it…you can pretty much cook it anyway you want."

High in protein and possessing an unmistakably nutty flavor, tempeh is a winning substitute for many dishes that call for meat: spaghetti sauce, chili, tacos, stir frys, and also classic sandwiches such as a tempeh "Ruben" (replacing the corned beef to join the tempeh with sauerkraut and swiss cheese on rye), a "TLT" (tempeh, lettuce and tomato) or even a "mock chicken" salad—a recipe available on all packages of Mu Tempeh.

While pan or deep frying tends to be the preferred methods of preparing tempeh, it can also be steamed. Tempeh is almost always cooked, but it is perfectly safe to eat it raw.

Ross explained that the Lakeside Café recently featured tempeh in a popular special—a twist on the British classic, bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes). In Ross' version, however, tempeh played the starring role, replacing the fatty sausage.

"We pan seared the tempeh with garlic, hoisin sauce and a little bit of olive oil and served that with mashed potatoes, steamed collard greens and a mushroom gravy," said Ross.

Uchida says he favors the classic Indonesian spice combination of garlic and coriander with his tempeh, but this versatile food welcomes all kinds of flavors.

But how does tempeh differ from other protein sources? There are many "fake-meat" products available on the market today (from bacon to burgers; hot dogs to chicken nuggets), and their low-fat, no cholesterol promise may seem enticing for individuals seeking better health. However, because many of these foods are so highly processed, they may not really be very healthy at all. Tempeh, however, is still made in a traditional fashion and many health professionals suggest that the way it is prepared makes it much easier to digest than many other modern soyfoods.

"I think [tempeh] is a spot on choice for dietary concerns as a meat substitute," declares Ross, adding "but you should eat it for the flavor."

Tempeh production starts with a culture known as Rhizopus oligosporus added to fully-cooked, dehulled soybeans that are pressed into cakes and left to sit for about 24 hours. Indonesian tradition has the tempeh formed in banana leaves, but in modern Western tempeh production, plastic helps give it shape while it undergoes its fermentation. The Rhizopus culture not only lends tempeh its characteristic flavor, but it deactivates the problematic trypsin inhibitors, and other chemical components naturally found in soybeans, that block the absorption of essential nutritional enzymes and minerals. The result is a truly healthy, easily digestible and delicious food.

Curious to learn more about tempeh? William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, the team Uchida claims helped introduce tofu to the West in their now classic "The Book of Tofu," are also responsible for the follow up, "The Book of Tempeh." From production to preparation, this informative reference offers everything you need to know to start eating, or even making, your own tempeh.

TEMPEH 'MOCK CHICKEN' SALAD

8 ounces tempeh, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, and deep fried or steamed, then cooled
5/8 cup mayo
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
2 tablespoons minced dill pickles
4 tablespoons minced carrots
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
1 tablespoon shoyu or soy sauce)
dash of garlic powder

Combine all ingredients, mixing lightly but well. Serve as a sandwich filling or mounded on a bed of lettuce.


SAVORY TEMPEH IN TOMATO & HERB SAUCE

Oil suitable for deep-frying
10 ounces tempeh, cut into slices 1 by 2 by ¼ inch thick
3 to 4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons butter or non-hydrogenated margarine
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoons shoyu or soy sauce
½ teaspoon basil
¼ teaspoon oregano
Dash of thyme
Dash of marjoram
Dash of cayenne, Tabasco sauce, or chili powder


Heat the oil to 350 in a wok, skillet or deep-fryer. Dust tempeh slices in flour and deep-fry for 4 to 5 minutes, or until crisp and nicely browned Drain well.

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in remaining ingredients and deep-fried tempeh, bring to a boil and, stirring occasionally, simmer covered for 30 minutes.


Recipes adapted from "The Book of Tempeh" by Shurtleff and Aoyagi

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