Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tempeh or not tempeh? That is the question.

Tempeh. I just can't work it out. I don't think there is anything I don't eat in the vegan world, I'm open to it all - but I just can't figure out how to cook this so that its not mushy and slimy and just plain hideous. And I have never had anyone else cook it for me so don't really know how it's meant to turn out.

I have tried steaming, then marinating and frying but it still remains an unpalatable mess. What am I doing wrong? Do I have to fry it in a LOT of oil? Is it possible to dry fry it? Slow cook? Really hot pan? When should I marinade? Should I use premarinaded stuff? Before or after? Thin or thick slices? Crumbled like a mince substitute? If anyone has great tips on tempeh I would love to hear them. I would prefer not to have to shallow fry as I'm not overly keen on frying everything in oil.

I am happy with tofu and seitan as it seems they can work out well regardless of my lack of cooking skills. But tempeh? Help!


  1. dude, to be coarse, tempeh is fucking disgusting. I have found one recipe that has made tempeh palatable for me, and that is the tempeh burgers in the real food daily cookbook. Dont feel bad, I dont get it either.

  2. There is a book from Aduki called "Tempting Tempeh" & the recipes I have made from that have been good. There is a red wine casserole in there which is really, really delicious.

    Also I made pizza with tempeh crumbles & that was good too, the recipe is here: http://www.theppk.com/recipes/dbrecipes/index.php?RecipeID=125

  3. Aww really Carla? So many people seem to love it - I just thought I must be doing it wrong! But I just find it so gross each time that I can't even eat it. I am kind of determined though to make it nice, I don't want to be defeated!

    I'm wondering if I can make it crunchy and dryish if it would be nicer - maybe I will give the crumbles a go. I also read about roasting it so maybe I could try that?

  4. I have a great recipe for BBQ tempeh which is baked and comes out a little bit crispy without too much oil, which I will get from home and can either email it or post it here if you like. I also enjoy dry frying it until it's quite crispy and then putting something like teriyaki sauce with it. But, to be honest, I've found that the tempeh available in the shops here (at least in Townsville) is a disgusting, mushy and inadequate version of the firm and nutty and textured tempeh I could get quite easily in the US. I found one good tempeh here, but for $7 I can't justify getting it very often...

  5. Thanks Theresa, would love if you could share your recipe!

    Maybe you are right about the type of tempeh - I will keep my eyes out for a different brand without marinade on it. I have seen all sorts of different types at the Organic Food shop on Smith St.

  6. I'm not a huge fan of tempeh, but I really love marinating in something very strong (such as five spice), then frying it, then baking it. The recipe I use is on my blog here, and it's pretty much the only time I'm guaranteed to love tempeh, though I'm always happy to give it a go. I dislike tempeh's actual flavour, so I find I need to disguise it with a strong marinade (because I do like the texture).

  7. I didn't always like tempeh but have come to love it (in the right recipe). I like putting cubes of it in laksa, and if it turns out you don't like that then you can always pick them out and enjoy the veges and noodles. :-)

    My absolute favourite ways to eat tempeh are in this lasagne and marinated like this, but there's not much of a meal left if you decide after a bite that they're not your thing. :-/

  8. my favourite way to cook tempe is to slice it very thinly, matchstick size, spray it with olive oil, season it with salt and pepper, and bake it until dry, careful not to burn it though.
    after that, heat a little bit of oil in frying pan, add chopped garlic, and sliced red chilli, add the cooked sliced tempe, and add 1 - 2 tsp of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), stir until sticky and caramelized a little bit. you can also add some cashew nuts, peanuts, almonds, or sesame seeds. Yummm.. :)

  9. in my real food daily cook book she slices it thinly and smokes it in a stove top smoker to make bacon out it .. that stuff is amazing... but yeah... the only times I've been able to tolerate it has been that burger (so yum!) and thinly sliced in a stir fry....

    sometimes... you just dont 'get' stuff.. .though I have to say it took me about 4 years of being vego to 'get' tofu.... I'm sure theres an art to tempeh like tofu.. but right now.. its lost on me..

  10. BBQ Tempeh

    500 g. tempeh
    1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
    1/2 c. soy sauce
    1/2 c. olive oil (I often use about half this)
    1/3 c. maple or golden syrup
    2 t. ground cumin
    2 t. ground chilli
    1 t. dried thyme
    1 t. paprika

    Heat oven to 180. Slice tempeh in half horizontally, and then in half crossways so you end up with four roughly square pieces that are about 1 cm deep. In a jug, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour half of this mixture into a square baking dish that will hold tempeh slices in a single, snug layer. Place tempeh on top of sauce, then cover with remaining sauce. Cover and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until marinade is mostly absorbed. Uncover, bake 10 more minutes until browned. Serve in sandwiches or with rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.

  11. Aw thanks guys!
    Sadly Steph, I can't access your blog cos for some reason it's blocked in my office - I can only view your blog through my google blog reader thingy - maybe you could email it to me?
    iheartbrocolli, that sounds great - matchstick sized crunchy stuff sounds much more tolerable than slimy mush.
    Theresa, thanks for the recipe, I have copied it to take home and give it a whirl - successfully I hope!
    Carla, I agree I might never 'get' tempeh. But I have managed to like every single other thing I have eaten in the vegan world (except uncooked Cheezley) so am determined not to give up yet! (I will coming crying to you later perhaps...)

  12. Niki, why is my blog blocked? That's really sad!

    Sorry I didn't post this before, I didn't have send comments enabled on this post :o( I only came back to look at it because of your tempe post today!

    five spice tempeh

    1 pack tempeh
    1 tablespoon 5-spice
    4 tablespoon dark soy
    1 tablespoon light soy if the mixture is looking a bit strong

    You will need a gas burner, and a wok. You might get away with using a frying pan, but frying pan is a different style of frying and I take no responsibility for any lack of wok-hei or change in cookability that you may encounter.

    Mix together the five spice and the dark soy, until the spice has dissolved. If it’s looking a bit too overwhelming, add a dash or two of light soy. Slice the tempeh into fingers about 15mm by 10cm, then coat in the marinade. There should be enough marinade to coat the tempeh, and still have a bit of liquid floating around the bottom of the container. Sit for at least an hour in the fridge.

    Wok on the stove, burner up high. Put a little bit of peanut oil in a wok, no more than two tablespoons, and swirl around up the sides. Using chopsticks or tongs, place the tempeh first in the middle, where the oil should be starting to pool, and then up in the ring around the centre, where the flames hit the wok. Don’t do all of the tempeh at once, at least not if you’ve never used this technique before – perhaps do six or seven slices at one time. Turn each slice, occasionally but not constantly swirling the oil through the centre and up the ring (just when it looks like you need more oil up there), for about three or four minutes. Remove the tempeh to a tray, and continue wok frying until all the tempeh has been through the wok. Spread on oven tray, and bake on 180C for about fifteen minutes, turning halfway.

    The wok crisps up the outsides, and the oven allows it to gently bake the flavour through. The oil left has this great crispy, spicy wok-hei kind of flavour, which last night I used to fry sliced mushrooms, something I will elaborate upon in another post.

    Serve the tempeh any way you please, I like to serve it on a bed of bean shoots or cucumber, or just eat it straight from the oven.