Tempeh is a highly nutritious soy product which is very popular in its country of origin, Indonesia. It is thought to have originated from Central and East Java over two thousand years ago, following contact with Chinese traders who were experimenting at the time with various wild moulds when producing soy sauce. The method was adapted to Indonesian tastes and climate, and today over 64% of Indonesia's soybean production is made into tempeh.
Traditionally, tempeh was made in a small village shop using the most basic equipment. Tempeh artisans were able to supply tempeh wrapped in banana leaves in the village market, providing the community with a fresh, versatile and very nutritious food.
To ensure a high quality product, we use a traditional technique rather than contemporary methods which are hurried and can give tempeh a slightly bitter taste and rubbery texture. Good quality tempeh should be firm, dense and covered with white mycelium. It should have a pleasant, clean, subtly sweet or mushroom-like aroma.
Initially, the soybeans are washed and cooked. In some parts of Indonesia the beans are soaked overnight. This begins the first fermentation process, using micro-organisms from the environment. The beans are then washed and de-hulled mechanically. Historically, the beans would have been crushed by stamping on them in the river, and the hulls would float away downstream.
The next step in the process is to boil the beans a second time for about 1 hour to pasteurise the beans. They are then drained and the culture is added.
Following this, the soybeans are stored in a warm place between 22 and 40 hours while fermentation takes place. This process binds the beans together making a dense, white cake.
Once the fermentation process has finished, the tempeh is used as a raw ingredient in cooking.
Many use tempeh in stir-fries as a vegetarian high protein ingredient. It may be fried, deep fried, grilled, braised, steamed or boiled. Cooked on its own without seasoning, tempeh has a nutty, mushroom taste. When seasoned however, tempeh will readily accept the flavours of the seasonings it is cooked in.
In tropical climates, traditionally tempeh is sold fresh and consumed within 48 hours. Fresh refrigerated tempeh has a better flavour and texture than frozen tempeh, it can be kept in the fridge at a temperature of below 4°C for up to 6 days. Tempeh can be kept for months in the freezer with only a small loss of texture or flavour. We supply both fresh refrigerated and frozen tempeh.
Tempeh flavour will develop with age, gradually gaining a distinctive taste. This is because some of the soybean proteins are broken down during the aging process giving the tempeh a similar flavour to soy sauce. This more mature taste is called "tempeh bosok" and it is often added during cooking for extra flavour.