Soy is probably the most controversial food on the planet right now. I don’t know how we’ve had our attention diverted from the inhumane treatment of battery chickens and pigs wedged into sow stalls, but it’s the humble bean that seems to cop the most flack. I’ve made a summary of the pros and cons of soy and personally believe that unless you have a goitre (a thyroid abnormality), eating fermented soy foods like tempeh is a beneficial addition to a broad diet.
If you are unfamiliar with tempeh, it’s a fermented soy product made from the whole bean. Tempeh is sold in rectangular “cakes” and can be bought fresh from the fridge in health food stores, some supermarkets and a few Asian groceries. It can be frozen too. I buy tempeh that is made from non-GMO, Australian grown organic soya beans. Indonesia is the home of tempeh and I’d jump on a plane to Bali again in a minute just to get a serve of their delicious, crispy tempeh!
The only downside to tempeh is it tastes best fried ’til it is golden brown on the outside. A healthier option is to brush sliced tempeh with a little oil and grill. If you are looking for ideas on what to cook with tempeh, Heidi has some delightful recipes at 101 Cookbooks.
My favourite way of eating tempeh is pan fried in a little oil, once it has turned golden add a few splashes of kecap manis (sweet soy) to the pan and toss the tempeh through it. This adds a slightly sweet/salty flavour to the tempeh. It goes well in a stir fry, with some raw vegetables in a sandwich and as the star of a salad.
This following recipe is for a simple salad that is perfect for this time of year. Quantities depend on whether you are feeding one or ten people. It’s very flexible, you can substitute the rocket with your favourite type of lettuce if preferred or add green beans or other vegetables. It’s up to you. This recipe is vegan, dairy-free and suitable for coeliacs and those avoiding wheat if tamari is used instead of soy, shoyu or kecap manis.
Spring salad with tempeh
Oil, neutral vegetable
Tamari or kecap manis
Toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds (optional)
Prepare the asparagus
Discard the woody bottom third of the asparagus. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. To blanche the asparagus, boil for 1-3 minutes, depending on the degree of rawness you prefer. Refresh immediately in iced water.
Prepare the tempeh
Slice tempeh thinly and cut into 2-3cm lengths. Heat some vegetable oil and a pan and shallow fry. Drain well. If you want to give your tempeh more zing, add a couple of teaspoons of tamari or kecap manis (sweet soy) to the pan in the final minute of cooking. If using kecap manis, don’t drain on paper towels as they’ll stick to the tempeh!
Assemble the salad with rocket on the bottom and the tempeh on top. Combine the dressing ingredients well and sprinkle on top, or toss through.
1 part lemon juice
2 parts vegetable oil e.g. walnut or olive
1/2 tsp honey
a few drops of tamari/shoyu/soy sauce
Combine ingredients well. You can make a big batch of dressing and keep it in an airtight jar in the fridge for a week.