We've had good tempeh and we've had mediocre tempeh. At its best, the soybean cake is rich and nutty. At its worst, tempeh can be bitter or bland. We grew up eating tempeh and enjoy its earthiness, but for some, it's an acquired taste. Here are five ways to prepare tempeh and enhance its potential for excellent texture and flavor.
1. Steamed. If you find tempeh to be too bitter straight out of the package, steaming it can help. Place sliced tempeh in a saucepan and cover with water or vegetable broth. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove the tempeh and proceed with marinating, grilling, baking, or otherwise seasoning and cooking it.
2. Marinated. Tempeh can be rather bland on its own, but it takes well to marinade. Good tempeh marinade ingredients include soy sauce, vinegar, citrus juice, coconut milk, peanut butter, ginger, spices, or sweeteners like maple syrup, agave nectar or honey. Even a quick coat of soy sauce and a few other seasonings significantly heightens the flavor.
Here's what we do on busy weeknights: Cut an 8 ounce block of tempeh into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Marinate for 10-20 minutes in a mixture of Bragg's liquid aminos (1/4 cup), rice wine vinegar (1 tablespoon), sesame oil (1/2 teaspoon), and minced garlic (1-2 cloves). Pan-fry over medium heat until golden brown and crispy.
Marinated tempeh may also be grilled or baked.
3. Thinly sliced. Grilling or pan-frying tempeh until the edges turn crispy enhances its natural nutty flavor. Of course, different recipes call for various slice sizes and techniques, but in general we like to slice tempeh about 1/4 inch thick. At this thickness, it can acquire just the right amount of crispiness on the edges while retaining a nice, chewy interior.
4. Blackened. Tempeh coated and seared with with blackening spice makes a tasty addition to salads and vegetable bowls. Use a prepared Cajun-style seasoning or make your own with equal parts paprika, cayenne, black pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, and salt. Brush tempeh patties with oil, coat them with the spice mixture, and sear in a hot frying pan. Let the spices smoke for 5-10 seconds to blacken.
5. Crumbled into sauces and stews. Like tofu, tempeh takes on the flavor of whatever it's cooked in, making it a versatile way to add heartiness and protein to a meal. Add crumbled, grated, or cubed tempeh to spaghetti sauce, stew, chili, or curry.
Do you have anything to add to the list?
(Image: Flickr member FotoosVanRobin licensed under Creative Commons)