Tempeh is a fermented soy food and is long known in Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s packed with plant-based protein and is often used as a meat replacement. As concepts of Ayurveda and healthy eating are trending, the interest people have in fermented products is skyrocketing all over the Western world. However, fermentation is so much more than another health trend. Incorporating some fermented food, like tempeh, into your everyday diet can help to alleviate digestive problems and boost your immune system.
But what is fermented food exactly? Read along and learn more about what fermentation is, how it works and why it is so beneficial.
Fermentation turns carbs into alcohol
Fermentation is an ancient concept of preserving food. People used to ferment fruits, honey, and rice. Nowadays, anything can be fermented: soybeans, kale, and tea, to name a few. In the natural process of fermentation, microorganisms like bacteria or fungus turn carbs into alcohol or acids. The more sugar and carbon dioxide the product you are fermenting contains and the longer you allow it to ferment, the higher the alcohol percentage will be. That is why apple cider, made of apple juice that contains naturally more sugar, contains more alcohol than Kombucha, which is made of tea. That being said, anything that ferments contains some traces of alcohol. Especially people that need to be conscious about alcohol, should keep that in mind.
While fermentation is a natural process that can happen involuntarily, it needs warm temperatures, the right bacteria, and some oxygen to make it digestible for us humans. Research shows that fermentation adds beneficial gut bacteria, known as probiotics, that alleviate digestive problems and make food easier to digest. Many fermented products are high in vitamin C, zinc, and iron, which reduce inflammation and can even heal autoimmune diseases by boosting your immune system. Fermented products can initially cause bloating, but as soon as your body gets used to it, you’ll notice the differences!
We love fermented products and one ingredient we would like to highlight in this blog is the fermented soybean, also known as tempeh.
Tempeh - an Indonesian fermented source of protein
Tempeh is a plant-based staple in Indonesian recipes. Many plant-based recipes these days call for this special soybean derivative, but what is tempeh? Tempeh is a firm fermented soybean cake that is high in protein and fibre, and works in any dish either cooked, fried, or baked. It has a mild nutty flavour and it takes on any flavour you add to it. Tempeh is made with the help of healthy bacteria that are introduced to the fermentation process and is actually pretty easy to make at home. We love tempeh and use it in a lot of our recipes to enrich our dishes.
Do-it-yourself tempeh recipe
To make tempeh at home, you need dried soybeans, apple cider vinegar and a tempeh starter (rhizopus mold). The last one can be bought online. Soak the beans and cook them while covered. When almost soft, add the vinegar. Let the beans cool down and mix in the tempeh starter. The rhizopus mold needs a warm and moist environment to grow and ferment the soybeans.
When made professionally, tempeh is fermented in an incubator. Instead of using an incubator, you can use zip-loc-bags or plastic containers. Punch small holes in the plastic bags with a skewer or put the mixture into a container without a lid and then cover it with another plastic container that’s slightly larger and placed upside down. An even better way to cover it would be with banana leaves if you can find them! Since we’re making the tempeh from scratch, adding vinegar will help with the fermentation and gives it the nutty flavour.
After 2 to 3 days the fungus should have grown enough and the tempeh is ready. Don’t get freaked out by the tangy smell of fermentation, this is normal. Tempeh is ready to be preserved in a clean container in the fridge for up to a week or even longer in the freezer. The cold will prevent the bacteria from continuing to ferment. Once ready to consume; make sure to season it and cook it properly!
Check out our menu online. Maybe it is your lucky day, and we have some dishes with tempeh featured!
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