Tempeh (//; Javanese: témpé, Javanese pronunciation: [tempe]) is a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Tempeh is unique among major traditional soy foods in that it is the only one that did not originate from Greater Chinese cuisine.
It is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh's fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and an earthy flavor, which becomes more pronounced as it ages.
Tempeh probably originated on the island of Java. It was mentioned as kadêlê in an old Javanese manuscript, Serat Sri Tanjung, which dates around the 12th to 13th century. The earliest known reference to it as “tempeh” appeared in 1815 in the Serat Centhini.
The invention of tempeh is connected to tofu production in Java. The tofu-making industry was introduced to Java by Chinese immigrants circa the 17th century. Chinese Indonesian historian Ong Hok Ham suggests that tempeh was accidentally produced as the by-product of the tofu industry in Java; as discarded soybeans caught the spores of and grew a whitish fungus that was found to be edible. The etymology of the term tempeh itself is suggested to be derived from old Javanese tumpi, a whitish food made from sagoo,[definition needed] while historian Denys Lombard suggests that it is linked to the local term tape or tapai which means “fermentation”. Three detailed, fully documented histories of tempeh, worldwide, have been written, all by Shurtleff and Aoyagi (1985, 1989, and 2001).
Tempeh begins with whole soybeans, which are softened by soaking, and dehulled, then partly cooked. Specialty tempehs may be made from other types of beans, wheat, or may include a mixture of beans and whole grains.
A mild acidulent, usually vinegar, may be added to lower the pH and create a selective environment that favors the growth of the tempeh mold over competitors. A fermentation starter containing the spores of fungus Rhizopus oligosporus or Rhizopus oryzae is mixed in. The beans are spread into a thin layer and are allowed to ferment for 24 to 36 hours at a temperature around 30°C (86°F). In good tempeh, the beans are knitted together by a mat of white mycelium.
Traditional tempeh is often produced in Indonesia using Hibiscus tiliaceus leaves. The undersides of the leaves are covered in downy hairs (known technically as trichomes) to which the mold Rhizopus oligosporus can be found adhering in the wild. Soybeans are pressed into the leaf, and stored. Fermentation occurs resulting in tempeh. In particular, the tempeh undergoes salt-free aerobic fermentation.
Under conditions of lower temperature, or higher ventilation, gray or black patches of spores may form on the surface—this is not harmful, and should not affect the flavor or quality of the tempeh. This sporulation is normal on fully mature tempeh. A mild ammonia smell may accompany good tempeh as it ferments, but it should not be overpowering.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||803 kJ (192 kcal)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
The soy carbohydrates in tempeh become more digestible as a result of the fermentation process. In particular, the oligosaccharides associated with gas and indigestion are greatly reduced by the Rhizopus culture. In traditional tempeh-making shops, the starter culture often contains beneficial bacteria that produce vitamins such as B12 (though it is uncertain whether this B12 is always present and bioavailable). In western countries, it is more common to use a pure culture containing only Rhizopus oligosporus, which makes very little B12 and could be missing Citrobacter freundii and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which have been shown to produce significant levels of B12 analogs in tempeh when present. Whether these analogs are true, bioavailable B12, has not been thoroughly studied yet. The fermentation process also reduces the phytic acid in soy, which in turn allows the body to absorb the minerals that soy provides.
In the kitchen, tempeh is often prepared by cutting it into pieces, soaking in brine or salty sauce, and then frying. Cooked tempeh can be eaten alone, or used in chili, stir fries, soups, salads, sandwiches, and stews. Tempeh's complex flavor has been described as nutty, meaty, and mushroom-like. It freezes well, and is now commonly available in many western supermarkets, as well as in ethnic markets and health food stores. Tempeh can be steamed, marinated, thinly sliced, blackened, or crumbled into sauces and stews.
Tempeh performs well in a cheese grater, after which it may be used in the place of ground beef (as in tacos). When thin-sliced and deep-fried in oil, tempeh obtains a crisp golden crust while maintaining a soft interior—its sponge-like consistency makes it suitable for marinating. Dried tempeh (whether cooked or raw) is more portable and less perishable and may be used as a stew base. Sometimes when tempeh is diced and left, they will create white feathery fluff which bonds the cut—this is the Rhizopus mold still growing—this is normal and perfectly edible.
The most common tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. However, traditionally other ingredients such as ampas tahu (tofu dregs), ampas kelapa (coconut dregs) and peanuts may be used in a fashion similar to the tempeh making process, although perhaps using different fungi or attracting other microbes.
Also called tempe kedele or tempe dele, or simply just tempe. The most common and widely known tempeh, made from controlled fermentation of soybeans.
Soft and fluffy tempeh made from soy pulp or tofu dregs. Tempe gembus usually can be found in traditional markets of Java, at a price lower than that of common soybean tempeh. It is made into a variety of dishes; for example it can be battered and/or fried, used in sayur lodeh, or tempe bacem. Tempeh gembus is known by different names across Java; for example as tahu cokol or tahu susur in Temanggung.
Tempe oncom, or simply onchom, is made from peanut press cake or soy dregs. Whereas common soybean tempeh uses Rhizopus oligosporus or Rhizopus oryzae fungi, oncom instead uses Neurospora sitophila. Among fermented bean products, oncom is more prevalent in West Java, where it serves as the main ingredient in various Sundanese cuisine traditional dishes, including oncom goreng, oncom leunca, and nasi tutug oncom. There are two types of oncom: a bright red-orange kind, and a black one.
Tempe menjes kacangEdit
A specialty of Malang, the rough textured tempeh menjes kacang is made from black soybeans mixed with other ingredients, such as peanut dregs, cassava fiber, and soybean meal. The process of making menjes kacang is quite similar to black oncom.
Tempe bongkrèk is a variety of tempeh from Central Java, notably Banyumas regency, that is prepared with coconut dregs. This type of tempeh has led to several cases of fatal food poisoning, as it occasionally gets contaminated with the bacterium Burkholderia gladioli, and the unwanted organism produces toxins (bongkrek acid and toxoflavin) from the coconut, besides killing off the Rhizopus fungus due to the antibiotic activity of bongkrek acid.
Fatalities from contaminated tempe bongkrèk were once common in the area where it was produced. Thus, its sale is now prohibited by law; clandestine manufacture continues, however, due to the popular flavor. The problem of contamination is not encountered with bean and grain tempehs, which have a different composition of fatty acids that is not favorable for the growth of B. gladioli, but encourages growth of Rhizopus instead. When bean or grain tempeh has the proper color, texture and smell, it is a very strong indication the product is safe. Yellow tempe bongkrèk is always highly toxic due to toxoflavin, but tempe bongkrèk with a normal coloration may still contain lethal amounts of bongkrek acid.
A new form of tempeh based on barley and oats instead of soy was developed by scientists at the Swedish Department of Food Science in 2008. It can be produced in climatic regions where it is not possible to grow soybeans.
Sometimes tempeh is left to ferment further, creating a pungently stronger "almost rotten" tempeh called tempe semangit in Javanese.
The wrappings used in tempeh making can contribute to its flavor and aroma. Though some prefer the traditional banana, waru or teak leaf, readily available plastic sheet wrappings have been increasingly widely used.
Common soybean tempeh that has undergone sufficient fermentation process.
In Indonesia, ripe tempeh (two or more days old) is considered a delicacy. Names include tempe semangit (stinky tempeh) in Java, hampir busuk (the almost rotten) tempeh or tempe kemarin (yesterday tempeh). Having a slightly pungent aroma, small amounts are used as a flavouring agent in traditional Javanese sayur lodeh vegetable stew.
Pure soybean cake, tempeh made in plastic wrap without any fillings or additives such as grated raw papaya. This was meant to create a more "hygienic and pure" tempeh free from any impurities or unwanted microbes.
Cooking methods and recipesEdit
The simplest way to cook tempeh is by frying. It is both deep-fried and stir-fried. However, there are several cooking methods and recipe variations. Among others are:
Probably the simplest and most popular way to prepare tempeh in Indonesia. The tempeh is sliced and seasoned in a mixture of ground garlic, coriander seeds and salt, and then deep fried in palm oil. The tempeh might be coated in batter prior to frying, or directly fried without any batter.
Tempe bacem is a traditional Javanese dish originating in Central Java. Bacem is a Javanese cooking method of braising in spices and palm sugar. The tempeh is first braised in a mixture of coconut water, palm sugar, and spices including coriander seeds, shallots, galangal, and bay leaves, and then briefly deep-fried. The result is a moist, sweet and spicy, dark-colored tempeh. Tofu may also be used, yielding tahu bacem.
This variation is often found in Purwokerto. The word mendoan originates in the Banyumas regional dialect, and means "flash-fried". The tempeh is first dipped in spiced flour before quickly frying in very hot oil, resulting in a product that is cooked on the outside, but raw or only partially so on the inside. It has a limp, soft texture compared to the more common, crisp, fully fried tempeh.
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Also known as kering tempe (lit: "dry tempeh"), or sambal goreng tempe if mixed with plenty of hot and spicy sambal chili pepper sauce. It is a crispy, sweet and spicy, fried tempeh. The raw tempeh is cut into small sticks and thoroughly deep-fried until no longer moist, and then mixed with palm sugar, chili pepper or other spices, or with sweet soy sauce. Often it is mixed with separately fried peanuts and anchovies (ikan teri). This dry tempeh will keep for up to a month if cooked and stored properly.
Tempe orek or orak-arik tempeEdit
Tumis tempe or oseng tempeEdit
Tempeh skewered and grilled as satay.
Sate kere (Javanese for "poorman's satay") from Solo in Central Java is made from fluffy tempe gembus. Ground tempeh can also be made into a thick sauce, such as in sate ambal, a chicken satay from Kebumen, Central Java where tempeh flavored with chili and spices replaces the more common peanut sauce.
Grilled tempeh over charcoal or fire.
Tempeh sandwich or tempeh burgerEdit
Fried, grilled or otherwise cooked tempeh patties, sandwiched between slices of bread or hamburger buns with salad, sauces or seasonings.
Crispy kripik tempeh as a snack
Freshly made, raw tempeh remains edible for a few days at room temperature. It is neither acidic nor does it contain significant amounts of alcohol. It, however, does possess stronger resistance to lipid peroxidation than unfermented soybeans due to its antioxidant contents.
Cooked as tempe kering, the deep fried and seasoned bits of tempeh can last for a month or more and still be good to consume, if cooked correctly and stored properly in air-tight jar. The deep frying process removes the moisture, preventing further fermentation and deterioration, thus prolonging its shelf life.
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