Having lived outside of Canada, I have to say there are a few foods I’ve missed…maple syrup for sure! And tempeh! Temp-eh? you say…
Yes. Tempeh. But not just any tempeh. My favorite “smoked” tempeh!
One of my first meals back was a mouth-watering crispy smokey-tempeh sandwich made with (gluten-free) toast smothered in dijon mustard and a skim of hot mustard as well as the mouth watering dill pickle relish from Bubbies! I had some fresh spinach I layered in there too…and oh my!!
Delicious, nutritious down-home comfort food! Mouth-watering deliciousness!
Nutritious because tempeh is a protein-rich, fiber-filled naturally fermented food.
Naturally fermented is healthy?
Naturally fermented foods are not just important for propagating our beneficial gut flora, but critical because without a regular intake of naturally fermented microbe-rich foods our immune system can become depressed, our nervous system can become depleted, and our digestive system is negatively effected, whereas by including foods like tempeh on a regular basis we support the health and vitality of these body systems.
What is tempeh made from?
Tempeh can be made from several different ingredients, typically legumes (soy, chickpeas, fava, blackbeans, peanut, etc) and/or grains (rice, barley, etc) but sometimes there is also seeds (sunflower, etc) added. Depending on where you live you may or may not have access to these varieties. Tempeh can also be home-made for those who want to set up a tempeh making system.
How is it cultured?
A culture called “rhizopus olligosporus” is introduced to the soaked and cooked beans, (just like the yogurt-making process). The prepared beans are spread out in a special box-like container and left to ferment for 3-5 days. Then the commercially purchased tempeh is cut into slabs or strips and either sold in vacumn packs as is, or marinated in different sauces and flavors first.
This is what fermented, uncooked raw tempeh looks like…
How can I use tempeh?
The versatility and deliciousness of tempeh is becoming a less known secret in North America. Tempeh originated in Indonesia, but is available now around the world and is used in stir fries, wraps, sandwiches, soups, stews, chilis, pates, and on top of salads, etc.
How long will tempeh keep?
You may notice black strips of what looks like mold on some tempeh slabs/strips. This is a naturally occurring color that is harmless, in fact healthy…as it is a concentration of ferment. If the tempeh smells okay…neutral or sweet…and isn’t slimmy…it is perfect.
Tempeh that is purchased in a vacuumed package can be stored refrigerated for weeks, and usually months. It can also be frozen for up to 6-12 months.
Once it has been removed from the vacuum package, it should be cooked or eaten or stored in a plastic container up to 1-2 days. Fresh tempeh will not keep as long as cooked tempeh.
Where can I find it?
Tempeh is available in several flavors (marinades) from two different companies here in western Canada, but only the varieties from Green Cuisine are completely gluten-free. Some of the Turtle Island varieties have soy sauce made with wheat which if you have celiac disease, or NCGI, you have to avoid.
If you live elsewhere you may have other options. Tempeh is even available now in mainstream grocery markets like Superstore, as well as natural food markets.