Nutty, chewy, and uniquely tasty: here’s all you need to know about tempeh, the traditional Indonesian soybean dish.
How is it different from tofu?
Many people regard tempeh as tofu’s lesser-known cousin. But while it’s true that both are made from soybeans, the similarities stop there. For one, this vegan wonder is actually more nutritious than tofu. It’s packed with more protein, more fibre and more probiotics. Plus, since it’s fermented (unlike tofu), the molecules inside are broken down into more digestible nutrients, avoiding the bloating that sometimes comes with eating beans. If you’re a woman, you’ll also be pleased to hear that it contains oestrogen-mimicking hormones that reduce breast cancer risk and menopause symptoms!
How do soybeans become tempeh?
The way tempeh is made now may differ slightly from how it’s traditionally been made in Indonesia, but the fermentation process is always relatively simple. Production begins with preparing the soybeans. Before they can be turned into their final form, these beans need to have their hulls cracked and removed. After shelling, the soybeans are cleaned. In Indonesian history, this was often done in a river. In contemporary Singapore, they’re usually cleaned in large sinks. Once the beans are washed, they’re soaked and then boiled just slightly. As soon as they become a little soft, they’re removed from the heat and dried out. A special spore is added to the beans during this step to begin the fermentation process. After being wrapped in plastic bags or banana leaves, the beans are ‘incubated’ at the right temperature and humidity until they’re ready. The end result is a delicious block of tempeh ready to cut and cook.
What does it go with?
The best thing about this food is that it’s so wonderfully versatile. No matter what dish you have a craving for, there’s probably a recipe for a version that includes tempeh. Typically, tempeh is steamed (which reduces any bitterness) and then grilled, baked or pan-fried to give it a deliciously crispy exterior. To add flavour, you can marinate it, sear it with spices, glaze it, or just add seasonings to whatever recipe you’re making. Once it’s cooked, you can add it to stir-fries instead of tofu, eat it in a sandwich for lunch, and even use it as a meat substitute in burgers, curries and more. It works great with any flavour profile, so feel free to combine it with every cuisine, from Mexican to Chinese.
Get it delivered
If you don’t feel like experimenting with tempeh yourself, you can always order a delivery with foodpanda. You can find it in a vegan bowl with veggies at Carrotsticks & Cravings, on black pepper sauce burgers at Sauté, and even paired with crispy fried duck at Bebek Foreng Pak Ndut.