As much as it sounds funky, tempeh doesn’t fail to look intriguing too. If you were ever in Indonesia, where tempeh originated, it’s common to come across this national staple sold wrapped in banana leaves and in street food. It took several decades and growth in the vegan lifestyle for tempeh-inspired dishes to reach the western kitchen, but only long after cousins tofu and seitan invasion.
Significance of fermented tempeh:
Tempeh is a versatile plant-based protein fermented with Rhizopus fungus starter, cultured into firm cakes in a controlled environment. Traditionally tempeh was made with native black soybeans; however, all kinds of grains, seeds and legumes can be fermented to form tempeh. The fermentation process reduces phytic acid helping the gut with nutrient absorption, and reduces oligosaccharides associated with gas and indigestion. The minerals in the beans become more bioavailable.
How to play with tempeh?
It has a textured bite making it an excellent food for savoury dishes that work well with more solid components, like a stew or a curry. Tempeh makes for a great burger or deep-fried sticks with dip. Crumbled and flavoured with the right spices, tempeh makes delicious taco stuffers and pizza toppings. This is a limitless world of possibilities; go crazy!
But what is that black spot?
If you are familiar with tempeh, you may have encountered dark-coloured patches on it that might not seem very appetizing. The dark spots are a natural part of the culturing process and do not indicate spoilage. It happens during sporulation when the tempeh ‘goes to seed.’ Imagine a block of fermenting tempeh as a mini mushroom farm. The tempeh ripens slightly faster in areas with more oxygen (around the bag perforations), and the microscopic mushrooms in those areas decide it’s time to sporulate. It is harmless, like blue cheese or gorgonzola, and it is simply an indication of ripeness. Just make sure it doesn’t smell funky. If the tempeh smells terrible and is slimy, it indicates spoilage.
Whether you are new to tempeh or have been hesitant about trying it, tempeh indeed offers a lot. Enjoy the opportunity to taste civilization’s one of the most unique gastronomical inventions! Temp(eh)ted enough?