The world is gradually embracing plant-based food alternatives. Clean eating has taken on a whole new meaning, and even if one isn’t turn vegan, there’s a higher focus on vegetables, legumes and fruits. However, finding vegan or vegetarian sources of protein can be limiting. Enter tempeh, a superfood that’s packed with many health benefits and can be easily found here in Malaysia.

What is tempeh?

tempeh
Tempeh is made of beans (mostly soybeans), which are fermented before being set, and boasts many health benefits. (Image: Ella Olsson/ Unsplash)

It is a plant-based protein. The Indonesian food is made out of beans (mostly soybeans), which are fermented before being set. The ingredient has a strong, nutty flavour and can be used in a variety of recipes across cuisines. The fungus used to ferment the food is called Rhizopus oligosporus, which helps bind soybeans together. This is why you may find that tempeh has a layered structure which is almost cake-like. Tempeh has a firmer and grainier texture than tofu, and a meatier bite. For many, it also has a better flavour profile than tofu.

Where to get tempeh in Malaysia, or make it at home

tempeh health benefits
A delicious yet nutritious dish. (Image: Agita Prasetyo/ Pexels)

Making this food item requires the presence of the fungus used to ferment it. In simple terms, soybeans are soaked overnight and their outer hull/ skin is removed. Next, they are cooked and mixed with the fungus (also called tempeh starter) and allowed to ferment until it forms a layered, cake-like structure. The process can take a few days to complete, unlike tofu, which usually takes a few hours or overnight to be ready. You can buy the tempeh starter from vendors on Shopee.

If it’s too much of a hassle to make your own, you can purchase tempeh directly from markets in Malaysia. You may not find it in all grocery shops, but some specialised ones such as Qra and Vegan District along with those dealing with vegan or international ingredients will usually stock plain or flavoured tempeh. You can also purchase dried or fresh tempeh from online shopping platforms in Malaysia like Lazada and Shopee.

Local businesses like Truly Gourmet and TCD Snacks have even turned it into crunchy, nutritious snacks, so you get a healthier alternative to potato chips. Truly Gourmet offers a variety of tempeh chips in flavours like sea salt, cumin and onion, while TCD features options of tofu chips with black sesame, and soybean chips dusted with garlic powder, herbs and spices.

tempeh health benefits
Truly Gourmet has turned it into crunchy chips laced with spices like cumin. (Image: Truly Gourmet)

How to use it

Tempeh can easily be used as a replacement for meat because of its firm texture and ability to soak up flavours. For vegan or vegetarian recipes, it’s a good substitute for tofu as it doesn’t fall apart as easily. Its nutty, earthy flavour profile is different, of course, so it might be an acquired taste for some. Personally, tempeh marinated in robust, wholesome spices and toasted makes for a great snack or addition to sandwiches, salads and ramen bowls for an instant protein boost.

Nutritional value and health benefits of tempeh

tempeh health benefits
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. (Image: Shutterstock)

While both tempeh and tofu are made largely from fermented soybeans, the nutritional value of the former is slightly higher. This is because when foods are fermented, they end up acquiring more complex bacteria and vitamins, and their overall nutritional value also rises.

Nutritional value

The following values are per 100 grams of tempeh:

  • 166 calories
  • 20.7 gm protein
  • 6.4 gm fat
  • 6.4 gm carbohydrate
  • 5.7 gm fibre

Tempeh also has small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

(Main and Featured Images: Shutterstock)

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong

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