I am excited to talk about one of my favorite vegan discoveries today, TEMPEH! To those of you who are new to veganism or just trying it out, my best suggestion is; GO OUT AND GET TEMPEH! Compared to tofu, tempeh is much cooler. It’s so versatile! You can just cut it up thin to make scaloppine, fry it, bake it, grind it to make bolognese or meatballs etc etc.
There are so many awesome things about tempeh, besides its flavor and texture, that I will just name a few. First of all, unlike tofu, which is made from soymilk curd; tempeh is actually a whole food. It is made by fermenting beans and grains, just like cheese! Therefore, it contains something that tofu does not, probiotics, so necessary and beneficial to our digestive system. For this reason, I personally find that tempeh is very gentle on my digestive tract. I sometimes, however, don’t digest tofu that hasn’t been properly cooked, very well.
Most of the tempeh found here in Switzerland is made from soybeans. I am happy enough to find it so I cannot complain! Plus, it’s made locally, something I love to support. But, it sometimes makes me consume a little more soy foods than I would like. In NYC I used to eat all sorts of tempeh. The best place to get really fabulous tempeh is from Barry’s Tempeh. He has so many different sorts it is fun to try them all. People who are sensitive, or are watching their gluten and/or soy intake, have many options to choose from. You can find him in Smorgasburg and other markets where he has a rotating weekly variety as well.
The recipe today I think really showcases the great potential of tempeh, and it makes it accessible to those of you trying it for the first time. I think its texture is what I am in love with. You will see, it has more of a bite than tofu. This kicka** recipe is from my good NGI friend Angela, a true born and bred lovely Mexican girl, who just happens to be a divine cook too. So, don’t take it from the Swiss girl who knows nothing of authentic Mexican food (and always manages to burn herself of chiles), but take it from Angela; this is a traditional Tacos Al Pastor recipe – made vegan! HURRAY!
Even if tempeh is the star of this dish, its preparation is really very fast and simple. Don’t be afraid of all the condiments and toppings, I always make this dish, even when I have little time. Plus, you can pick and choose the condiments. There are lots of ingredients, but you only need minimal cooking and prep time. Don’t be shy, get your Mexican on! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, I asked Angela about 1000 silly questions the first time I made it. She must think I am hopeless as a Mexican cook! And take it from me, it might look ridiculous and feel funny, but USE GLOVES when messing with the chiles.
- 3 tablespoons ground paprika
- 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon black pepper corns
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 3 dried chilies, veins and seeds removed (I use 1 Ancho, 1 Guajillo, 1 Pasilla)
- 2 cups boiling water
- 3 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 1/2 red onion, minced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, minced
- Salt, to taste
Pico de Gallo
- 3 large tomatoes, small dice
- 1 red onion, small dice
- 1/3 cup cilantro, minced (or to taste)
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 2 jalapeños, seeds removed, minced
- Salt, to taste
- Pineapple, diced
- Green pepper, sliced thin
- Corn tortillas
Cut the tempeh in small slices, or even small ‘sticks’, spread in a shallow baking dish. To prepare the marinade, mix all the ingredients in a blender. Because you are adding hot water, leave an opening for the vapor to escape. Once well mixed, pour over your tempeh. Leave to marinate about 30-45minutes, while you prepare the condiments.
For the guacamole, mash the avocados well in a small salad bowl, then mix in the rest of the ingredients.
For the pico de gallo, mix together all the ingredients in a small salad bowl.
Once the tempeh has marinated and your condiments are ready, you need to pan fry it. Drain your tempeh gently, but keep the marinade. Heat a large skillet with a little canola oil and add your tempeh. Turn heat to medium/ high. You will want to fry the tempeh until it is nice and coloured and very slightly crisp on the outside. I usually add a few tablespoons of the marinade whenever it starts to stick. This makes for a very flavorful tempeh. I add about 6 tablespoons of the marinade in total. Make sure you taste and adjust your salt.
Once cooked, I usually serve everything on the table and people can make their own tacos. It’s fun and delicious!