Tip of the Week: The Taste of Tempeh

The title pretty well describes this tip! I get a lot of people who don’t like tempeh as much as tofu. Most people say that it has a weird flavor. For a long time, I didn’t notice the flavor or know why some people thought that it had such a strong flavor. During culinary school I learned that tempeh is cultured and whole soybeans are fermented in a block. It contains a lot of healthy bacteria like yogurt does, but some people can’t stand the taste. In this tip, I am sharing my top two favorite ways to prepare tempeh that help neutralize some of the strong flavor.

The first technique is marinating. This one may seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t think of it. So many people will just pan fry tempeh and think that by making it crispy and putting some seasonings on it will make it more palatable. The truth is, it just seasons the outside, and the middle of the product still tastes the same. I really like putting a bold marinade in tempeh. It absorbs flavors really well, so I try to take advantage of that. One of my favorites is to mix soy sauce, smoked paprika, maple syrup, and black pepper to make it taste like bacon. At the cafe I worked at after culinary school, we had a dish where the tempeh simmered in a spicy garlic/soy marinade to expedite the process. It became so flavorful so quick, it was really amazing! Since that experience, I mostly prepare tempeh in that fashion and then pan fry it to get it crisp on the outside.

The other technique I use a lot is poaching. I learned this one in school, and I have used it for a lot of my dinners. A lot of times I will go pretty simple with my poaching liquid and either do lemon with herbs and dijon mustard, or a vegetable stock that I add some spices to. It helps gently neutralize the flavor over 20-30 minutes of light simmering. This method is best when the tempeh is going to be breaded or pan fried. It is a great way to impart more subtle flavors into the product without having to use a very strong marinade.

I know this was very useful information when I began cooking for others. Certain flavors are difficult for people to get past, and if I can help neutralize the strong fermented flavor of tempeh to make it more palatable to the average person, then I am doing my job right!

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