Like Seitan, Tempeh is a meat alternative that has become popular with more than just the vegan and vegetarian crowds in recent years thanks to its touted health benefits. Unlike seitan (which is made from raw wheat gluten), tempeh is made of whole, fermented soy beans, making it suitable for those who don’t consume gluten, but unsuitable for those who don’t consume soy. But like seitan, this food also reportedly offers plenty of health and nutritional health benefits: As a good source of fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, it can help to boost the immune system, improve digestion, reduce “bad” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, help keep brain function operating at its best, and even help keep our bones strong. Thanks to its potassium and magnesium content it also can help keep muscles happy, and it’s also often claimed to be a great food to eat when striving for weight loss thanks to its high fibre and protein content. It also contains a considerably lower sodium level than some other meat alternatives, such as seitan, if that is a concern for the consumer.
How do you use it?
Much like seitan, tempeh also boasts a firm and meaty texture (and flavour) can be likened to a more hard and firm tofu. It is sold in either raw or pre-cooked form – if it’s the former, it first must be rinsed and then either steamed or simmered in a shallow pan of water, whereas if it’s the latter, it can also be steamed or eaten just as it is. Tempeh’s mild natural flavour also makes it an excellent base food that takes on the flavours of whatever it’s seasoned with, which makes it delicious in stir fries, sandwiches, soups, pies, burgers, on pizzas, as nuggets, fried into “bacon” strips, in salads, in tacos, as mock meat “ribs”, as bolognaise sauce, or grilled. It holds up well to strong flavours and sauces such as BBQ, sweet and sour, or teriyaki, to name just a few.
Tempeh is one of the many foods that was apparently discovered by accident – in this case, it was said to have been discovered in Indonesia back in the 17th century after the Chinese brought their tofu-making methods to the country. The residue that had been discarded from the soybeans used to make the tofu, and began to grow an edible form of fungi, and it is this fermented form of the soybean that later became tempeh. Because it’s so malleable in texture, it can be shaped into pretty much anything, making it even more versatile.