Ecosalon Recipes: Pan-Fried Tempeh with Lemongrass, Garlic, and Ginger

Confessions of a first time tempeh cooker: I was one of those people who thought she didn’t like tempeh”¦until just a few days ago. Perhaps you feel the same way. Maybe you’ve had bad tasting flavored tempeh from the grocery store, or thick, grey slices served at health food restaurants.

If that’s the case, you owe it to yourself to try this recipe. Developing this recipe was my first attempt at cooking it and it succeeded beyond my wildest imaginings.

PhotobucketA couple tips: Tempeh must be sliced thinly and then pan-fried until a golden crispy crust forms. The caramelization improves the texture and adds to the cake’s savoriness. The easy sauce for this recipe can be whisked together in moments. Add it to the pan after the tempeh becomes golden brown, where it creates an addictive sweet-tart-savory glaze. Serve this dish with brown rice and sautéed greens, such as bok choy, Chinese broccoli, or pea shoots, and you’ll be happy you tried tempeh. I sure was.

Tempeh is one of the healthiest forms of soy. The fermentation process makes the bean more digestible and creates active cultures that are good for keeping the friendly bacteria in your gut healthy. Make sure you buy organic tempeh because most conventional soybeans are made from GM (genetically modified) soybeans and are heavily sprayed with pesticides. If you can find the Kecap Manis in the ingredient list, give it a try. Look for an Asian grocery that carries items from Southeast Asia. If you strike out you may substitute a mild flavored molasses. It has a similar, though not identical, flavor profile.

Tempeh originated in Indonesia and is made by drying partially cooked soybeans and then adding yeast and letting the beans ferment. The process creates a firm cake that has a full nutty flavor when cooked properly. High in protein, vitamins, and minerals tempeh makes a good meat substitute.

Pan-Fried Tempeh with Lemongrass, Garlic, and Ginger

Serves 3

PhotobucketYou’ll need:

1 tablespoon very finely chopped lemongrass
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane or small grater
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons Kecap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
A couple shakes of your favorite chili sauce
8 ounces plain, unflavored organic tempeh (sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices at an angle so you get wide slices)
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

PhotobucketTo make:

Whisk together the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, Kecap Manis, soy sauce and chili sauce.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Start with 2 tablespoons and add more as needed. You may need to cook the tempeh in batches because it won’t crisp up properly if it’s crowded in the pan. Add the tempeh slices and let sizzle on one side, without turning, for 3-5 minutes, or until deep, golden brown. Turn and cook on the other side until brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate if cooking in batches. After all the tempeh slices are browned, turn off the heat, pour off excess oil, if any remains, and return the slices to the pan. While the pan is still hot, add the sauce and shake the pan to make sure the sauce coats all the tempeh slices. It should sizzle and make a thick, dark glaze. Serve immediately.

Recipe Copyright 2009 Vanessa Barrington

Note: use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Image: I Love Butter

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.