Today's recipe is a reef, one of my favorites from Andrea Nguyen's recent book Vietnamese Food Any Day. It's a caramelized tempeh crumble that instantly becomes the best part of your rice bowl. If you're on the fence about tempeh, this is the place to start.
What is tempeh?
Tempeh is a fermented whole food based on soy and very popular in traditional Indonesian culture. To make tempeh, soybeans are soaked, partially cooked, combined with an appetizer and then distributed in a layer so that the fermentation can take place. There is a lot going on in this phase and you can read a more detailed piece by piece about Tempeh production here. Soybean tempeh is the most common, but other variations are available. You may also see tempeh in combination with other power components like flax or other grains.
Andrea admits that tempeh is not a traditional Vietnamese ingredient, but she uses it in Banh Mi, Pho, and sprinkles like this to mimic meat, "when crumbled into small pieces … Tempeh absorbs the spices well and roasts well . ""
Why Tempeh is such a power food
Tempeh is generally considered an important ingredient because it is rich in a good variety of nutrients. It also weighs well on fiber, antioxidant and protein fronts. Add the fermentation factor (basically fermentation helps with nutrient absorption and digestibility) and you don't have a food that works for you. Many people like to replace tempeh instead of something meaty. For example, this tempeh crumble could take the place of a pork crumble. You can find more Tempeh recipes here, and I also like this list of Tempeh benefits on McKels Nutrition Stripped Site. More tempeh in 2020!
The Tempeh Crumble recipe
In Andrea’s version, she uses 1/2 cup of chopped lemongrass. The lemongrass adds wonderfully fragrant citrus notes and is one of my favorite flavors. That said, when I was in a hurry to prepare dinner, I skipped half a cup of chopped lemongrass (the lemongrass in my garden is insanely hard) and repeated this abbreviated version. Serrano chillies and extra spring onions are used – still very tasty, just toss together faster.
Ways to use the Tempeh Crumble
Here (above) you can see the tempeh as part of a rice bowl. The basic ingredients are rice and the tempeh crumble as well as everything that is easy and within reach in the refrigerator or in the pantry. I grabbed peanuts, some garden salads, cucumbers, pickled carrots and avocado. A shot of guacamole would not be undesirable. The crumble would also be great on these vegan nachos, in these garlic-lime salad wraps, or in place of the tempeh in this taco salad.