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Tempeh: Indonesia's Best-Kept
One of my favorite versatile food ingredients, one that I rely heavily upon, is tempeh (tem-pay). This flat solid and chunky cake of compressed cultured soybeans and sometimes grains can be cooked in a variety of ways. Its uses are limited only by one's imagination.
Tempeh is an Indonesian staple food, where it's eaten as snack and used widely in cooking.
Tempeh is perfect for anyone who wants to eat healthy food (except those allergic to fermented foods). It's a wonderful and nutritious meat substitute with absolutely no cholesterol. It's low in fat and calories and rich in protein and vitamins, especially B vitamins. Tempeh is a good source of fiber. It's easily digestible and causes no more flatulence than non-legume food. Tempeh is also rich in isoflavones, which act as antioxidants, lowering the risk of certain types of cancer and suppressing tumors.
Here's how Tempeh makers create this wonderful ingredient: The beans or grains are cooked and dehulled, then germinated with a starter culture (Rhizopus oligosporous, which is a mold) overnight at a warm temperature under controlled conditions. The germination process causes the mold spores to cover the soybeans or grains with a white substance called mycelia. The layer of mycelia binds and holds together the soybeans or grains forming a compressed cake that has a nutty rich flavor, chunky texture and chewy consistency.
Tempeh is basically ready to eat out of the package, but not very appetizing that way. It's much better heated or sautéed with your favorite seasonings or sauces. It absorbs flavors easily, so it can be marinated, steamed, sliced and grilled or sautéed. Add crumbled tempeh to your favorite sauces, soups, chilies, casseroles or pasta dishes.
You should store Tempeh in the fridge. Keep an eye on the expiration date, as no preservatives are used in organic tempeh. It may be frozen before it expires for up to a year, though once it's been frozen the texture may change a little. Defrost at room temperature or slowly in the fridge. If you thaw it in the fridge, it will last longer -- up to three weeks. Once opened, tempeh lasts up to seven days if kept refrigerated and tightly wrapped in plastic.
My favorite brands of tempeh are Lightlife and Whitewave. These companies make different varieties of tempehs that are vegan, kosher, made with organic beans and are wheat and gluten free (check the label).
Tempeh is widely available at produce or refrigerated sections of health or natural food stores. Even some Wal-Mart, K-mart and Target stores carry tempeh now.
Copyright© By Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.
Amira Elgan is an experienced cook, who has created innovative, healthy recipes for more than 15 years. She teaches healthy cooking classes for Whole Foods Market’s Salud! Cooking & Lifestyle School and Sur La Table. Amira is a former top manager of some of the premier dining establishments in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Hollywood, including the Mondrian, Bonaventure and Beverly Wilshire hotels. She is a devout yoga practitioner and healthy organic living and fitness expert with first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is the author and publisher of the Vegetarian Organic Life e-mail newsletter and is currently writing a vegetarian organic cookbook. She is married and has two sons,
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