Tempeh Celebration

I have been a vegetarian for 2 1/2 years and I have never prepared tempeh. Tofu is a staple in my refrigerator, and beans are a staple in my pantry. I always have eggs, milk, and yogurt on hand. I have the protein thing down.

However, meat substitutes are strangers to my kitchen, except for those that arrive in little white Chinese takeout containers tucked inside brown paper bags. We have a small Chinese restaurant around the corner with an extensive vegetarian menu with plenty of mock meat options, mostly made with seitan. I recently ventured into the world of cooking seitan, which I wrote about here.

In celebration of our new dining room table, I embraced the theme of new beginnings and chose to make tempeh for the first time. And that is how Korean BBQ-Style Tempeh became the first meal served on our new table.

I picked up my tempeh at Trader Joe’s awhile ago and it has been sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for this occasion. When I popped it out of the package, I thought, what on earth is this?

Mystified, I left the grainy beige blocks on my counter and hit Google.

Tempeh is a whole soybean product that originated in Indonesia on the island of Java (ooh, I love me some Java Estate coffee) that is created by a controlled fermentation process which binds the soy into blocks. The soybeans are soaked to soften, dehulled, and spread in a thin layer for fermentation. This process causes the beans to fuse together and form a large cake which is then sliced into blocks before packaging. The tempeh that I chose also included other grains: rice, barley, and millet.

Tempeh is a very nutritious food that is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. They’re not kidding when they call this block of tempeh a “powerhouse.” Check out the great nutritional information at World’s Healthiest Foods. This site is great for looking up the nutritional value of certain foods plus the reasons why your body needs these nutrients. Here are the nutrition facts for TJ’s Organic 3 Grain Tempeh, which I used in the recipe below.

20 grams of protein per serving? What?!?! Amazing. Now let’s get cooking.

I decided to marinate the tempeh in a Korean BBQ sauce for starters.

When the sweet and tangy smell of this sauce hit my nostrils, I thought of a Korean barbecue place I had been to in Manhattan that served up steaming hot rice bowls stuffed with tofu, that came with a variety of vegetables, toppings, and sauces on the side. My friend Melissa and I delighted in tossing the ingredients together as we ate and seasoning the results to taste. It felt like we were cooking our own meals, which is probably why we loved it so much.

I decided to do my own take on the concept by serving the components of the dish separately and lightly seasoned so Kyle and I could build our own bowls. In the spirit of construction, why not? We started with black pepper linguine.

Then we added sauteed vegetable slaw (onion, broccoli, carrots, cabbage).

And then I pan fried the marinated tempeh and crumbled it into bowls.

And made complete with seasonings…

It was totally delicious – almost like the real thing!

Oh how I miss NY…

Our tempeh adventure was made complete with the addition of a locally brewed beer. Cheers to new beginnings!

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