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empeh (pronounced TEM pay) is a traditional Indonesian food. This chunky, tender cake of soybeans is consumed daily in Indonesia, usually with rice as part of the main meal, or sometimes by itself as a snack. In Indonesia, tempeh-making is a household art that varies somewhat from home to home. Whole soybeans are usually mixed with a grain such as rice or millet. A "starter"- usually a piece of tempeh from a previous batch - is added to begin the fermentation process. In traditional home-based tempeh-making, the mixture is wrapped in banana leaves and left to ferment for 18 to 24 hours. In Western tempeh factories, commercial starters are used to produce tempeh, and the fermentation process takes place under carefully controlled conditions. Whatever process is used, the result is a cake of soybeans with a rich flavor sometimes described as smoky or nutty. The flavor also has been compared to that of mushrooms.
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Tempeh is usually sold in natural food stores, where it is found in the frozen food case. Frozen tempeh keeps well for several months. Tempeh can be kept in the refrigerator for about 10 days. As with other aged or fermented products, like cheese, a little mold on the surface of tempeh is harmless.
Tempeh has a tender chewy consistency that makes it an excellent addition to a variety of foods. It is delicious on the grill. First steam cubes of tempeh and marinate them in a lemon marinade or a zesty barbeque sauce. Then grill until browned. Add chunks of tempeh to spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes or chili mix, or to favorite soups and casseroles. Steam and grate tempeh and mix with chopped onions and celery and mayonnaise for a sandwich spread. Pan fry it with mushrooms, onions and bread crumbs for a delightful mushroom stuffing.
Since tempeh is made from whole soybeans, it is a fiber-rich food. It is also a generous source of many nutrients such as calcium, B-vitamins and iron.
Four ounces of tempeh provides the following:
Calories 204 Protein (grams) 17 Fat (grams) 8 Carbohydrate (grams) 15 Calcium (milligrams) 80 Iron (milligrams) 2 Zinc (milligrams) 1/5
Source: Composition of Foods: Legume and Legume Products. United States Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service, Agriculture Handbook,
Number 8-16. Revised December 1986.