Try Some Tempeh Today

I was inspired to do some research on tempeh when I was in Malaysia and Indonesia. While I’d had it in the states before, I’d only ever made some recipes I had found on line. It’s so common in Indonesia, so I was able to experience it in a variety of ways. Some of the best meals I had there included tempeh and the ones with peanut sauce, like gado gado were a double bonus (because I like peanut everything so much).

Tempeh Sate from a place called the Sate Bar on Gili Air in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal recipes to share with you as I’ve yet to be able to experiment on my own because I’ve been busy on the road, but I’ll link a few good ones in case you want to get adventurous.

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian soy based food. It is naturally cultured with a controlled fermentation process where soybeans are pressed into a cake form. While you may be familiar with other soy based products like tofu, tempeh is unique because it is one of the few soy foods that does not have origins from Chinese cuisine.
Tempeh is used as a vegetarian based source of protein and a three ounce serving (about 85 g) provides 140 calories, 16 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrate, and 7 grams of fiber. Values may vary based on the brand, and you can find tempeh in the cold refrigerator section of your local grocer, next to the tofu. Not all grocers carry it, as it is still a largely foreign food.

Tempeh

This vegetarian delight incorporates the whole soy bean compared to tofu and thus it has a different texture and nutrient composition. It has more protein, fiber, and is higher in vitamins like manganese and copper. It is fermented with a mold called Rhizopus oligosporus and according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, when foods are fermented, some of their carbohydrates, alcohol, and other molecules are broken down. This process can make the food components more easily digested and better absorbed by the body. When conglycinin and glycinin, storage proteins found in soybeans, are broken down, the smaller peptides act as antioxidants, improve immune function, and lessen the inflammatory response. Because tempeh is made from soy beans, a plant based food, there are other health benefits as well. Plant based foods, including soybeans, tempeh, tofu, and other foods made from beans, can help reduce blood pressure. Some of the peptides in it “inhibit angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), which more easily allows the cardiovascular system to regulate blood pressure.” It also helps protect the blood vessels from inflammatory and oxidative damage. In some studies, soy beans have been shown to be able to lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, and there maybe other cardio protective properties.

My breakfast at the airport when I left Bali. Eggs, veggies, and tempeh, some of my favorite foods.

Some of the phytonutrients in soy may be able to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, and there is some research that suggests it may aid in cancer prevention. Some of this is controversial and “real life factors” come into play as opposed to being analyzed in controlled studies. Genistein is a phytonutrient in soy that may aid in not only slowing tumor formation, but in triggering the death of cancer cells. Certain factors related to lifecycle and metabolic factors, however, affect the anticancer benefits of soy. In some pre-menopausal women who have developed certain types of tumors, genistein and soy have not reduced cancer risk. It has been noted that in order to maximize the anti cancer benefits, plenty of other fruits and vegetables should be consumed on a regular basis. When consuming soy products, it is recommended that we choose whole food sources whenever possible. Highly processed versions differ greatly from the whole bean product which is known for its greater health benefits and tempeh, as mentioned, is a whole bean food.
When you buy tempeh at the grocery store, it may have a few gray and dark spots. That is completely normal. It shouldn’t, however, have any yellow, blue, or pink spots. If that’s the case, it has been over fermented. When you unwrap your tempeh, it should smell mushroom like and have a firm texture. It can be cooked in a variety of ways from steamed, to broiled, stir fried, and fried in oil, Indonesian style, which gives it a nice crunch. You can use it in place of meat in any dish and it pairs well with a good, spicy, or BBQ sauce. Next time you’re planning a meatless Monday meal, consider some tempeh. It’s so delicious and will add some food variety to your week!

I like the layout of the ingredients and photos in this gado gado recipe. Looks tasty! http://www.justasdelish.com/gado-gado/

I used to make something like a tempeh sloppy Joe. I have no idea now what the recipe was, but this looks pretty good and something like I’d make. http://makingthymeforhealth.com/bbq-tempeh-sandwiches-with-apple-slaw/

If you have any go to tempeh recipes, feel free to share!

Tantalizing Thai Food!

What’s your favorite cuisine? I have a few I like, mainly Ethiopian, Indian, and Thai. If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you may know that I’m currently traveling through South East Asia and have been since July, 2016. I was in Thailand longer than expected. I was initially living on an island in the Bay of Thailand for two months, and then left to do some exploring through Myanmar, Thailand’s neighbor to the west.

The best cashew chicken I ever had was on Ko Lanta. It was full of cashews and veggies!

Unfortunately, on my 3rd day in country, I got injured and had to return to Thailand for medical treatment. Diagnosis: torn ACL and a bucket handle tear of the meniscus, one of the most severe types of meniscus tears. The first few weeks after surgery were a bit rough, but things get better day by day and my situation was definitely enhanced when I found Hom Hostel. It’s a “cooking club” and everyday, I learned about new foods and typical Thai dishes are always served for breakfast. While I’m not here to write a travel review (I’ve already done that), I have to say, the hostel has the best kitchen I’ve seen since I left my home last year!

Pad ka prao gai, minced meat with basil and egg, served with rice at Hom.

Let me bring a little Thai food into your kitchen, it’s actually not so tantalizing! You can make Thai food at home or go to any Thai restaurant across the globe. There are so many dishes, ingredients, and flavors. The food history and flavor combinations are complex and food itself plays a big role in the culture here. Everywhere you go, there’s food. There are small “hole-in-the-wall” type places all over, in the evenings, the streets are lined with vendors, and it seems every nook and cranny in Bangkok is filled with someone selling something edible. You can find fresh cut fruit, watermelon, pineapple, guava, dragon fruit, papaya, and more, for the equivalent of .60 a bag, fresh juice, grilled meat on a stick, Thai iced tea, roasted grasshoppers and larvae, and complex traditional Thai dishes are commonly available at most markets.

Mangosteen

Rice, like in so many other Asian cultures, is the heart of most meals, but salads, curries, soups, and relishes are popular as well. Many people say it’s cheaper to eat out than to cook at home and often times, this is the case. Luckily, if you choose the right foods, you can keep it pretty healthy as well and street markets are the places to go! According to Chef David Thompson in his book, Thai Street Food, they gained popularity in the 1960s when many Thai people began leaving their villages and farms in search of better jobs in growing cities, namely Bangkok. Women were at the forefront of the Thai street food culture as men stayed home to work the farm, or headed off to the military or monastery.
Thai Food incorporates a lot of fresh ingredients. Most vendors did not and still do not have a refrigerator, but some now keep ice, especially those that sell fruit or fish. Chinese immigration had a large influence on Thai street food. Many Chinese went to Thailand to escape the poverty that plagued their towns and villages and they had to make a living in a new country. They began preparing and selling Chinese food: noodles, rice, congee, and different meats cooked in the quintessential Chinese 5 spice mix. Overall, Thai cuisine has many influences from all over Asia and Thailand itself is broken down into four gastronomic regions, Central, Northern, Southern, and Isan, or northeastern. While one could write a book on this subject, let’s get to some good stuff- some of the main ingredients of Thai cuisine.

Quintessential pad Thai on Ko Samui.

As mentioned above, rice is often the center of the dish, but it’s what goes around it, of course, that provides all the flavor. Flavors come from onions, shallots, garlic, galangal, a ginger-like root that gets smashed to release flavor while cooking, cilantro, lemon grass, kafir lime leaves, chilies, fish sauce, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Thai food has many salty, savory, and spicy components, but sweetness from various ingredients is often used. Coconut milk is common, and palm sugar, white sugar, and fruit juices are added to sweeten up main meals. The list of vegetables is endless, and many dishes are even garnished with flowers, brining us to yet another component of Thai food and snacks- presentation. Food always looks good, whether it’s served from a street vendor, a restaurant, or on display in the grocery store. Vegetable carving is very popular and most dishes are served with some type of edible decoration as a garnish.
If you haven’t tried Thai food before, give it a shot. There are many Thai restaurants all over the United States and while there are many dishes with very specific recipes, I’ve found some, such as cashew chicken are made differently where ever you go, so whether you try Thai food in Thailand or somewhere else, you’ll likely get a good combo of flavors. Stay tuned for some authentic, healthified Thai recipes soon!

I saw these tools at a market once, I should have bought one.

Have you had Thai food? What’s your favorite dish? Leave your comments and questions in the section below!