Tempeh is a highly nutritious fermented food traditionally made from soybeans and its high protein content makes it a wonderful substitute for meat. Did you know that tempeh is an amazing source of manganese, protein, copper, phosphorus, vitamin B2, magnesium and monounsaturated fats? You would have thought that this wonder food would be more popular in North America but it is a traditional staple food in Indonesia! What also makes tempeh so great is its ability to easily absorb the flavours of the other foods it’s being cooked with, making it adaptable to many types of dishes. Since my dad is originally from Indonesia and is quite familiar with this tasty treat, he decided that we should try to make our own. So read on if you'd like to try your hand at this fermented phenomenon!
Typically tempeh is made by cooking, hulling, and inoculating soybeans with a culturing agent (i.e. Rhizopus oligosporus) that acts as the fermentation agent. Then after incubating the innoculated product overnight the soybeans begin to form sort of a solid cake that can be sliced and cooked however you please!
- To get started you will need to find a 1 kg bag of dried uncooked raw soybeans
- Soak the soybeans in a big pot of warm water overnight to soften
- Once your soy beans are nice and soft, drain the water. You will then have to hull them or split the beans in half to remove the layer of skin so that the culture can penetrate the beans for fermentation. (We used a big potato masher or meat mallet of some sort, but you can knead them or use whatever works)
- After all of the soybeans have been hulled and split into two, put them in a pot of water and bring to a boil for about 1 hour
- Take them off the heat and let cool for an additional hour
- The next step is probably the most important step in this entire process...one that cost my dad 2-3 failed batches! You will need to completely dry the soy beans before adding the culture. Any additional moisture can ruin the batch!
- Mix in your culturing agent (we used Rhizopus): 1 kg of beans = 0.4 g of culture. Mix as throughly as possible!
- Put the beans in a sealed Ziploc bag and puncture several small holes into one side (the top side up since you will be laying them flat over night)
- After sealing up the bag with minimal air, place them in a dry area (we kept them in our oven) where the culture can work it's magic… the temp should be between 25-32 C
- 24-36 hrs later you should start to feel your tempeh getting solid and forming a white outer coat… Once you see the white you know the fermentation was successful!
- Take the tempeh cake out and slice/cook/serve/enjoy!
As a vegetarian option to ground beef or to add some extra flavor, texture and nutrition to chili try adding some tempeh! I am also particularly fond of making tempeh patties rolled in seasoning and bread crumbs... YUM!
There are lots of great recipes available from vegan and vegetarian cookbooks on how to prepare and enjoy tempeh, and as my dad and I keep trying new things out I’ll be sure to post them! Although it may seem a bit tricky to make, it’s definitely worth it, especially if you are looking for some fresh ways to spice up your healthy diet. So good luck, and let us know if your batch works out!