If your dinner guests don’t head for the hills when you haul out the tofu, they just might when you start slicing the tempeh. Especially when you mention that “tempeh is a Javanese soybean derivative made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form.”
A visit to the poorly edited wikipedia page on tempeh also reveals that tempeh is bound together by a web of mycelia bacteria as well as this exciting factoid:
“The importance of tempeh for the Indonesian daily staple can be describe as the following: In 2007, when Tempeh producers in Indonesia went on a strike, because of the rising cost of soy beans, there was a national outcry for them to start producing again, and people were willing to pay more.”
Well, fucking QED.
The entry somehow manages to be both gross and dull. So I’d maybe leave the details out of it and just say that tempeh’s “kinda like hard tofu” and “really tasty.”
Also, there’s sauce.
Unlike tofu, tempeh has a taste of it’s own, best described as a sort of “nuttiness,” and it’s actually pretty good fried up on it’s own. But like tofu, it also takes on added flavors extremely well.
The general consensus is not to buy any of the pre-flavored tempehs that are out there, as you can do the job much better yourself. Tempeh should be steamed for 20 minutes before marinating so that it softens.
The recipe below was perfect for one block of tempeh, but the truth is that the ratios are totally arbitrary. Also, I don’t have the book with me and am fudging them from memory. So, caveat lector, as we say, but I promise it’ll work out just fine.
Hoisin-Marinated Tempeh (with noodles!)
Garbled from Deborah Madison
1 package tempeh (it seems to only come in one size)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced fine
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Sriracha or other chili sauce (optional)
Cut tempeh into aesthetically pleasing cubes and steam (or boil) for 20 minutes. Combine all other ingredients and pour over the tempeh in a bowl or smallish baking dish. Soak for at least an hour, but overnight is great.
For the noodles, use any kind you like and just follow the package directions. The kind I had just required me to pour hot water over them and soak for a few minutes. You can find beaucoup noodles at any Asian grocery store.
Heat the tempeh in some way – oven or microwave both work, depending on what kind of container you’re working with – and add the noodles.
Eat, discussing the collapse of the auto industy, the latest episode of The City (Has that been cancelled yet?), or anything other than the Mycelia bacterium.