Thursday, March 5, 2009

What is Tempeh and Why Use It?

One of my favorite ingredients to use is tempeh. Tempeh originated in Indonesia. It consists of cooked soybeans (tofu is made from soy milk) that have been fermented and pressed into a cake. It is high in protein and is often combined with rice or other grains, which gives it a nutty, somewhat chewy, consistency. Tempeh is often used in vegetarian cooking for its meat-like consistency in such dishes as BBQ tempeh "wings" or tempeh "meatloaf."

I tend to purchase the three-grain tempeh because I love the nuttiness that comes from the barley, millet, and the brown rice. What I like about tempeh is its versatility. Like tofu, tempeh takes on whatever flavor you cook it in.

You can purchase tempeh that supposedly mimics the taste of bacon. I have not tried it and probably never will, especially after my unpleasant experience recently using mock meat seasoned to taste like beef strips. I have pretty much come around to the view that ingredients from the earth should actually taste like ingredients from the earth. As my partner authoritatively declared, after taking one bite of a mock beef strip: "Let vegetables be vegetables!" (I swear I thought he was going to push his dining chair back, stand up, and launch into "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables.)

On the subject of flavored mock meats, I suspect it is too late for me to cancel my online order for dehydrated textured vegetable protein chunks, seasoned to taste like chicken. I ordered a jug of these TVP chunks shortly before my experience last week with the mock beef strips. Money meet toilet. Toilet meet money.

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