Ah, tempeh — hailing from neighboring Indonesia, the vegetarian protein darling in North America, and never to be found in the Philippines. Tempeh is a cake made from culturing beans — traditionally soy — with the spores of Rhizopus oligosporus. High in protein, fiber, and vitamin B-12, it is a boon to vegetarians and vegans everywhere. The fermentation process breaks down the phytic acid normally occurring in soy, making nutrients more bioavailable.
Enough with the health lesson and on to its deliciousness. I am a huge fan of tempeh and have had it in traditional Indonesian cuisine and western vegetarian cuisine. North Americans love making tempeh into veggie burgers, bacon, bolognese sauce, sandwiches, savory pies — the culinary applications are limitless.
My unrequited love affair with tempeh began 2 years ago when I had the most delectable dish at Satay Junction, a hole-in-the-wall Indonesian restaurant in the West Village, New York City. Terong tempe belado, or tempeh with a concasse of eggplant, tomatoes, and chili — oh how I dream of it to this day! Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, it had a spicy profile with the power to clear sinuses up and kill a grown man’s tastebuds. The eggplant was cooked to a creamy perfection, the onions were caramelized to high heavens… It was love at first bite and I was determined to recreate that dish in my kitchen, oh if only I could find a local tempeh supplier!
I never did find a local supplier
To add fuel to the fire, Satay Junction is now closed
Fast forward to 2012. I recently traveled to Indonesia to visit my brother and sister-in-law and with an agenda in mind:
- Inhale as many tempeh dishes as I could while I’m there
- Find the yeast needed to transform beans into magical tempeh so I can make tempeh back home on demand
And inhale tempeh I did.