Sunday, October 14, 2007

What is Tempeh Anyway?

It’s whole soybeans that have gone through a fermentation process with the final result being chunks of soybeans stuck together by the white cottony mycelium. Mycelium is the ‘vegetative part’ of fungus.

What does it look like?
TempehA cross section tempeh wrapped in banana leaf.

What does it taste like?
Creamy, very slightly salty. Ever tasted your sweat? Well, it’s that kind of saltiness, but less salty. The texture is chewy and firm. The chewiness come from the soybeans that have been soaked overnight to ferment. Please don’t get the wrong idea. Tempeh doesn’t have any offending odor; it’s not like socks being left to ferment in the owner’s sweat (Yucks!!!). Just like yoghurt, a product of fermented milk, tempeh doesn’t have any offending odor.

What does it smell like?
Your hand on a humid day.
The upper part of your lip (you’d need to pucker up to do this and no moustaches please)

Where can you buy it?
In Malaysia, widely available at the wet markets especially from the Malay stalls

What size is it?
Tempeh wrapped in banana leaf pictured above is usually about 3x6 inches (15x7cm) and ¾ inch (1.5cm) thick. Some come in bigger pieces and some in smaller pieces. Prices also vary accordingly. For the size mentioned here, you can buy it for RM1.00 or about US$0.30. Sorry, I never bothered to weigh it.

How long can it be stored?
Tempeh is best eaten on the day it’s bought, just like other fresh produce. Fresh tempeh feels warm. If you’re going to use it on the same day, you don’t need to put it in the fridge. Beyond the first day however, you’d need to. After that it can last about 2 to 3 days. Then it turns rancid. The beans turn a yellowish colour and some parts of the mycelium turn black. Imagine a week old loaf of bread and you get what I mean.

Nutritional value
Because of the fermentation process, the whole bean in tempeh gives it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber and vitamins compared to tofu. In fact a good 40% of it is soy protein, with the rest being carbohydrate and fats.

Can we eat it raw?
I sometimes eat it raw and well, I still alive and well. So go ahead take my word for it, uncooked tempeh can be eaten. Just cut up a piece of raw tempeh into small bitesized pieces and dip it into ketchup or soy sauce. You want to eat the tempeh for its probiotics. Probotics can be found only in uncooked fermented foods like yoghurt or tempeh. As such, fried tempeh is useless. But, in my opinion, lightly sautéed or stir fried tempeh is also more than acceptable.

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