April 24, 2008

Tempeh for Beautiful Bones

The first time I introduced tempeh to my family and friends here in New Zealand was at one occasion way back two or three years ago. I thought they would not eat them, but to my surprise, they kept coming to the table for more and kept asking me what it was. Many of them have heard about tempeh but only a few have actually eaten it.

It is probably not an item every Western household would keep in the fridge, but I am sure it is well known to vegetarians as well as tofu. They are made from the same beans but treated differently. Tempeh is more like a cake of cooked whole soybeans which then is fermented using a tempeh starter or an agent, rhizophus.

My late grandmother used to make tempeh herself and sold them in the market. Like many Javanese people, she was a hard worker. She had to make a living because my grandfather was way long, long gone before I arrived in the world. I was told he was died in a battle when Indonesia was in the war with the Japanese.

Making tempeh is practically time consuming when you do it traditionally, although today this can be adapted by sophisticated machinery a Western household may have. My grandmother was doing it by hands: she rinsed the soy beans, left it overnight, then the next early morning she would start splitting the beans before cooking them. She would then stroll along the garden and chuck out some of the finest banana leaves from her backyard. Her favourite seat was on a little hut she built herself when she was having a rest. I would be sitting there with her and helping her splitting the banana leaves to a certain size wide enough to wrap the tempeh. We would come back and she worked on the tempeh while I was watching her. I was too small to be involved in tempeh wrapping, she said. She was spoiling me but I didn't buy that. She would then give me a little bit of her fermented soy beans and let me wrap mine. It was the smallest tempeh of all.

Susan of Food Blogga announces Beautiful Bones event to raise awareness for osteoporosis. I am cooking tempeh as an entry for this event. The nutritional facts about tempeh: high in protein, and its content of isoflavones is excellent for your health. On the list of 100g tempeh, look how much calcium, phosphorus, and potassium are provided on this nutritional facts list.

Tempe Goreng Tepung (Fried Tempeh in Batter)

In New Zealand, you can find organic tempeh from any leading supermarkets or health stores. Tofu Shop in North Shore might have it as well. I like using celery leaves because they highly contain of Vitamin C, potassium and calcium as well.

1 block tempeh, quartered and then sliced thinly,
1 cup Healtheries Gluten-Free Simple Baking Mix (or you can use ordinary flour),
1 tsp ground turmeric,
1 small garlic clove,
1 tsp coriander seeds,
2 Tbs chopped celery leaves,
salt to taste,
water, enough for mixing,
rice bran oil for deep frying

Crush the coriander seeds with a pinch of salt and garlic in the mortar and pestle until it's smooth (you can use ground coriander for no fuss—I just like using fresh coriander seeds for more fresh flavour). Put the flour in a medium bowl. Mix in the coriander and garlic paste into the flour. Pour some water to make a thick paste. Add water to thinning a little bit, but not making the batter too runny. Mix in the chopped celery leaves. Heat the oil until hot although not smoky hot. Dip the thinly sliced tempeh in the batter, and deep fry until golden brown on each side. Serve warm. Makes 16.

Another recipe for tempeh: Sambal Tempeh (Fried Tempeh with Sweet Soy Sauce)


Susan from Food Blogga said...

This is a fabulous entry, Arfi! I just love tempeh but tend to make it the same way all the time. Fried tempeh-- now, that sounds irresistible.
I usually buy mine in blocks at the supermarket, but I'm sure it pales in comparison to your late grandmother's homemade tempeh. Thank you sharing your story and for the healthful, bone-building recipe.
Cheers, Susan

Deborah said...

I have never had tempeh, but it sounds delicious. I love the story!

Indigo said...

I'm one of those people who have heard of tempeh but never seen or had it - I'd love to try it! That photo is so beautiful, too ^__^.

Cakelaw said...

What a beautiful family story, and I loved the interesting background information to this dish. Thanks for posting this Arfi.

Li@ said...

tiap hari makan tempe aku ga pernah bosen untung disini tempe banyak yg jual :D

btw aku dah nyoba foto pake kamera baru, coba deh mba mampir blogku postingan sosis goreng, coba kasih masukan ya mba


Zita said...

Wow...how thoughtfull mbak,love how you promote indonesian dishes :) too bad in Indonesia now we have tempeh crisis.

Lori said...

I have been wanting to try tempeh for a long time. Your picture inspires me more to try it.

Kevin said...

I have never had tempeh but that tempeh fried in batter looks really good.

Arfi Binsted said...

Susan: tempeh in new zealand doesn't really grow the rhizophus white like those in indonesia. perhaps they're using different tempeh starter. that's probably what's happening in the US as well, it's paler.

Deborah: thank you :)

Indigo: yes, i can believe that tempeh is a stranger in Western's pantries hehehe...

Gaye: you're most welcome.

Lia: I'll come and see.

Zita: I know. Isn't it unfair?

Lori: I hope you'll get tempeh and cook it by now hehehe...

Kevin: it does taste good in batter. perhaps it is a good way for those of you who are not familiar with tempeh to try out this way. it does not expose the 'real' taste' of tempeh itself, but there's also flavours coming with it.

Courtney said...

those look like bits of delicious fried-ness...i think they'd go over well in Andalucia, where most things are deep fried...

Arfi Binsted said...

I've heard Andalucia... oh, how I am dreaming to go to Spain...

Penny said...

*Coming out of lurkdom to comment*
I'm trying this one tonight! Thank you for the recipe :)

Another Outspoken Female said...

What a joy to come across this post. I love tempeh and the best that I have ever eaten is in Indonesia. Reading your post made me want to jump on a plane and head back over there!

A newer brand of organic tempeh I buy in Melbourne has the white coating which I am glad to hear is best to look for.

Barry Wah Lee said...

Hi, may I plug my shop a little?
We have some of the Tempeh with the white on it at Wah Lees.

Arfi Binsted said...

oh, true, Barry? I may get back to ya!