I’ve been a vegetarian for over 15 years and I still don’t really “get” tempeh. I mean, I know it’s good stuff and I want to be able to cook with it, but I still don’t entirely know its secret. Most of this comes down to tempeh’s distinctive flavor, which is hard to describe. Some say it’s nutty, almost mushroom-like, but to me there’s also a sourness there. If you don’t prepare tempeh with the right method and ingredients, this sourness is a little overwhelming.
Despite my complex issues with tempeh’s flavor, I WANT to like tempeh. It’s a great source of vegan protein and I love a good culinary challenge. Now, thanks largely to the Veganomicon and to a couple tips from inventive bloggers, I think I may have cracked the tempeh code.
As far as I can tell, their seems to be two keys to good tempeh:
- Boil the tempeh in liquid prior to marinading or as part of the cooking process
- Pair the tempeh with flavors that work well with its inherent “nuttiness”.
This boiling trick was a big eye-opener for me. For example, prior to marinating the tempeh for grilled tempeh, I boil it in water for 10 minutes, which seems to help it suck in the marinade better (thank you, Veganomicon, for the lesson). If I’m pressed for time, cooking the tempeh in the boiling marinade also works (see Tempeh Reuben Sandwiches or Tempeh Sloppy Joes).
As for flavors that work well with tempeh, I’ve had the best luck with strong flavors that have a smoky or spicy influence. Both the Veganomicon‘s Smoky Grilled Tempeh and my Tempeh Reuben Sandwich rely on liquid smoke to achieve this. But my favorite tempeh recipe so far is Hot Sauce Glazed Tempeh, also from the Veganomicon.
Monday was all about the Smoky Grilled Tempeh, with the minor substitution of honey for maple syrup in the recipe (maple syrup is better, by the way!).
Diary for Monday, May 18, 2009
Cottage Cheese Crepes with Fresh Fruit
12-mile round trip to and from Kennington in South London for a client meeting.
Dal and steamed spinach with avocado on toast
Smoky Grilled Tempeh with grilled onions, quinoa and salad
Pumpkin pie – with real whipped cream!