Where did tempeh come from?
Tempeh originated in the island of Java, Indonesia where the art of tempeh making goes back hundreds of years. There are now over 40,000 small family operated shops in Java and tempeh is still the most popular staple there.
How is tempeh made?
Tempeh is made by inoculating lightly cooked soybeans with the spores of the mold rhizopus oligosporus and allowing it to incubate in a warm environment for a day or two. We incubate our tempeh for 36 hours (most commercial tempeh is incubated for 24 hours or less ).
What are the ingredients in your tempeh?
Organic soy beans, tempeh culture and water - that's all.
Where did you learn to make tempeh?
I first tried tempeh back in the 70's at "The Farm" a spiritual-vegetarian community in Tennessee. I got some starter and basic instructions there. Then when I moved to Gainesville I started making it for my family and friends but as more people tried I had no choice but to keep increasing production. And that's how I became over the years "the local tempeh maker". I have been making tempeh for the last 25 years.
What are the black spots on tempeh?
When the tempeh organism (a cousin of the mushroom) reaches maturity, it produces black spores (their seeds). There is nothing wrong with this. They are an indication that the fermentation is complete. They are similar to the blue spots seen on blue cheese. Tempeh connoisseurs praise blackened tempeh for its richer flavor and subtle qualities.
How is your tempeh different than commercial tempeh?
The way beans are dried after cooking is probably the most significant difference between factory made tempeh and traditional tempeh. The factory uses a centrifuge while the traditional shop like ours uses air to dry the beans. Air drying is slower but allows for a better drying and introduces certain beneficial bacteria that improve the quality of the final product just like with sourdough bread. It has been found that these bacteria are responsible for the B-vitamins in traditional tempeh which are absent in the commercial variety,
How long does tempeh keep?
Tempeh will keep practically indefinitely in the freezer. In the refrigerator it will keep for about a week before it starts degrading.
What is the best way to thaw frozen tempeh?
Steaming is the best and quickest way to thaw tempeh. It also allows tempeh to be stored in the fridge longer. Leaving it to thaw over night in the refrigerator is second best. Make sure that tempeh is sealed inside a plastic bag to prevent wetness due to condensation.
How do you cook tempeh?
There is no limit on the ways to preparing tempeh. Frying, grilling, sautéing or baking are the most popular ways. Browning the surface of tempeh enhances its appeal. Tempeh can be adapted to any type of cuisine: from Thai to Jamaican. New delicious tempeh dishes are being invented daily by creative chefs all over America. This is indeed a "culinary revolution"!
How can you tell bad tempeh?
Your sense of smell is your best detector. Any unpleasant smell indicates that bacteria has invaded your tempeh. But don't worry this bacteria is not toxic and won't make you sick, it's just unpleasant. In Indonesia some chefs even use a little bit of rotten tempeh (tempeh bosok) to flavor other foods.
Can tempeh be eaten raw?
Yes. There is nothing wrong with eating it raw. However, when raw tempeh is coated with any oily mix like mayonnaise moisture gets sealed in and air gets sealed out and this creates a favorable environment for some anaerobic bacteria which will give tempeh an unpleasant taste. So, when preparing a chicken or tuna-like salad, first steam the tempeh well (20 minutes).
Is raw tempeh considered a "rawfood"?
This is subject to interpretation. Even though the original soybeans were cooked, in essence, by the end of fermentation, there is not much left of them because the tempeh culture has "eaten" the beans and incorporated it's nutrients and amino acids into its body. So eating uncooked tempeh is more like eating raw mushrooms than cooked soybeans.
Can tempeh be re-frozen?
Yes, but its texture will degrade a little. If the tempeh has thawed out and you cannot use it within a week then steam it. This will extend its shelf live and you won't have to refreeze it. On the other hand, if texture is not important, like if you are going to mash it up anyway, then refreezing is not a problem.
Does tempeh have B-12?
There is controversy about this. Scientists are not in agreement as to whether the B-12 found in some tempeh is real or false (one that cannot be absorbed by humans). If you are vegan (strict vegetarian), to be on the safe side, you should not rely on tempeh as your main source for this important vitamin.
What is in your opinion the most appealing way to serve tempeh for the non-vegetarian and average mainstream American customer?
Tempeh cut in thin slices and deep-fried. That's also the most popular way sold in the streets of Indonesia (in the US it would be a perfect snack to have with a beer). Also grilled and served in a bun like a burger.
Is it hard to make tempeh at home?
The best tempeh in the world is the one you make at home and eat fresh and it's really easy to make. The only important requirement is to have a warm space to incubate it at 88 degrees (30C) ; that's the ideal temperature for tempeh. I can email you instructions, just ask me.
If you have any other questions or comments write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your interest in tempeh