Tomorrow we’re showcasing an exciting new meal: Indonesian Kale and Beef or Tempeh Curry over Coconut Ginger Rice. Since tempeh may be unfamiliar to many of our customers, we’re offering up the 411.
Tempeh is a traditional soy product from Indonesia, likely Java, where it is a staple protein source. It is the only traditional soy food that did not originate in China. It is made through a natural culturing and fermentation process in which soy is bound into a cake form.
Soybeans first grew as early as the 11th century BC in China, and they were among the first crops man cultivated. Soybeans made their way to Indonesia, including Java, by the 7th century AD. Making tempeh may be the oldest food production technology in Java. The earliest known reference to tempeh appeared in 1815.
Tempeh involves minimally processing soybeans. The whole bean is retained, resulting in higher fiber, protein, and vitamin content than other soy products. Tempeh is low in fat but high in calcium, iron, and isoflavones, which may help prevent heart disease. Check out these nutrition facts. (While soybeans are the most common tempeh medium, other types of beans and whole grains or even wheat also may be used.)
Whole soybeans are soaked, dehulled, and partly cooked. Vinegar is added to lower the pH then a fermentation starter is mixed in. The beans are mildly fermented for 24-36 hours before being pressed into cakes and packaged - traditionally in banana leaves, now in plastic.
Tempeh is textured, nutty, earthy, and rich in umami taste. You could even say meaty like some mushrooms. It takes on the flavor of a marinade or whatever you’re cooking it in.