All you need to know about tempeh, the plant-based protein alternative

The world is slowly embracing plant-based food alternatives. Clean eating has a whole new meaning, and even if one doesn’t turn vegan, there’s a higher focus on vegetables, legumes and fruits. However, finding vegan or vegetarian sources of protein can be limiting. Enter, tempeh.

What is tempeh?

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It is a plant-based protein. The Indonesian food is made out of beans (mostly soybeans), which are fermented before being set. The ingredient has a strong, nutty flavour and can be used in a variety of recipes across cuisine. The fungus used to ferment the food is called Rhizopus oligosporus, which helps bind soybean together. This is why you may find that tempeh has a layered structure which is almost cake-like. Tempeh has a firmer and grainier texture than tofu, and a meatier bite. For many, tempeh also has a better flavour profile than tofu.

Where to get tempeh, or make it at home

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Making this food item requires the presence of the fungus used to ferment it. In simple terms, soybeans are soaked overnight and their outer hull/skin is removed. Next, they are cooked and mixed with the fungus (also called tempeh starter) and allowed to ferment until it forms a layered, cake-like structure. The process can take a few days to complete, unlike tofu, which usually takes a few hours or overnight to be ready.

If you want, you can also purchase it from the market. You may not find it in all grocery shops, but some specialised ones, or those dealing with vegan or international ingredients will usually stock plain or flavoured tempeh. Some of the brands to look out for are Hello Tempayy, TempeWala, Tempe Di Mumbai and several vegan grocery stores – both online and offline.

How to use tempeh

Tempeh can easily be used as a replacement for paneer or tofu in most recipes. The flavour profile is different, of course, so in case you are quite particular about how your palak paneer should taste like, you may not like it as much. Personally, tempeh marinated in robust, wholesome spices and toasted makes for a great snack or addition to my sandwiches, salads and ramen bowls for an instant protein boost.

Nutritional value

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While both tempeh and tofu are made largely from fermented soybeans, the nutritional value of the former is slightly higher. This is because when foods are fermented, they end up acquiring more complex bacteria and vitamins, and their overall nutritional value also rises.

Nutritional value of tempeh

The following values are per 100 grams of tempeh:

  • 166 calories
  • 20.7 gm protein
  • 6.4 gm fat
  • 6.4 gm carbohydrate
  • 5.7 gm fibre

Tempeh also has small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

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This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong.

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