How could I be vegan for more than ten years and never have tried tempeh? I always meant to, but something about it always turned me off. Now I've had a packet in my fridge for longer than I'm readily willing to admit, and its best before date was fast approaching, so last night I took the tempeh challenge.
I made Deborah Madison's Marinated and fried tempeh, Indonesian style, from her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The recipe is here, uncredited, so I'll give DM her credit back and reproduce it for you:
Marinated and fried tempeh, Indonesian style
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
serves 2 to 4
1 8- or 10-ounce package tempeh
1 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3 slices ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp brown sugar
2 pieces galangal, optional
3/4 cup peanut oil
Cut the tempeh into slices about 1/2 inch thick or a little less. Combine 1 1/2 cups water with the remaining ingredients except the oil and bring to a boil. Add the tempeh, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. When hot enough to sizzle a bread crumb, add the tempeh and fry in batches over high heat until golden and crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain briefly on paper towels, then serve with sea salt, a chutney, or a peanut sauce.
Served with the Morning glory with peanut sauce from Chat Mingkwan's Buddha's Table, though with broccoli rabe in place of the morning glory. The peanut sauce recipe is similar to this one, and was very good.
So how was that tempeh? Well, what I was expecting was something punky like blue cheese, and tempeh, even twice cooked with many spices, was surprisingly bland. I wanted to be all, "I do, I like them, Sam-I-am!" about it, but really I was just kind of meh. I am probably going to regret saying that. The texture was nice, not soft like tofu but firm and a bit crumbly, though not crumbly enough to lose its shape when simmered for half an hour in a watery sauce. I'd like to try making some on my own like the industrious Renae does over at i eat food, and I'm thinking that that would be the only thing that would turn me into a total convert. But you never know. Maybe another thing would be if I didn't have to travel so far to buy it at overpriced so-called "natural food" stores, for which I am developing an aversion bordering on mania…but that is a rant for another post.