This past week we have been off from school and I’ve kept myself quite busy. For three days this week I assisted a private macrobiotic cooking class and today I spent 8 hours doing some cooking for a local vegan catering outfit, Green Island Catering. I made seitan, which is ironic since I don’t eat gluten, a red wine reduction sauce, and four trays of lasagna, including a delicious tofu ricotta
I was first introduced to tempeh about two years ago. My father in law sliced it up, toasted it in a frying pan with some soy sauce, and put it in a Reuben sandwich. I was pretty hooked from there.
Tempeh is really just a pressed block of soybeans that has been fermented with a special culture of mold. Like tofu, it’s rich with nutrients and takes on seasonings well, and it’s got a great texture for sandwiches and stir fries.
Below: Soaked soybeans, the first step in the tempeh-making process.
The first step is removing the skins of the soybeans. If the skins aren’t removed, the tempeh won’t hold together well. It’s kind of a tedious process of rubbing the beans between your hands to loosen the skins off. Simmering the soaked beans for 20 minutes can help.
Below: The skin removing process is quite laborious, so lots of hands are needed.
Once the beans are skinned, you cook them, skimming off any skins or fibrous debris that rises to the top of the water. Then, you introduce the mold spores – a specific blend designed just for tempeh – and pack the beans into a bag or a small container. The beans will need to be kept at a warm temperature for about 24 hours to allow the mold to grow throughout the beans, which will bind them all together.
Below: Chef Shahnaz, ready to introduce the mold to the beans.
Below: Packing the inoculated beans into a bag for the incubation phase.
Below: The tempeh incubator, which keeps the tempeh at a consistently warm temperature to allow the mold to grow properly.
Below: One pack of tempeh after fermentation. Notice the white mold that has grown to cover the beans. You might think this would smell or taste strange, but in my experience, tempeh does not have much of an odor or flavor. It’s great with some soy sauce, and some tempehs have liquid smoke on them for flavoring.