For someone who eats vegetarian about 95% of the time, I’m not terribly well-versed in the “meat substitutes”. Sure, I love tofu, but I guess I have a hard time seeing it as anything remotely close to meaty. And heavens knows I love a good veggie burger like the one from the Jackson Hole in NYC, but even a plain old Gardenburger or supermarket-bought spicy black bean burger is a staple in my diet. With rare exceptions, though, I haven’t ventured into the territory of tempeh, seitan, and textured vegetable protein (TVP). Part of it is that I’ve never felt like I was missing anything, never wanted something more meaty in my diet. In fact, it’s mostly the texture of meat that has always turned me off from it, to the extent that I’m even somewhat averse to the meatiest veggies, like mushrooms.
That said, in recent weeks I’ve found myself wanting to look into cooking with the meat substitutes more. Here in LA we have so many health food restaurants doing interesting things with tempeh, seitan, and the like, that it seemed worth giving it a go at home. For whatever reason, tempeh seemed the most approachable to me and with the arrival of my first issue of Vegetarian Times (sort of a rag, frankly, but I got a year’s subscription for something like $4) came this recipe for golden tempeh curry. A spin on a classic Thai sweet curry, it seemed like a simple way to ease myself (and my meat-loving husband) into cooking with tempeh.
Turns out, it was pretty good. And believe it or not, after pan-frying the tempeh to start, the crunchy little cubes were tasty enough that I may have snacked on a few as is while preparing the rest of the dish. Between the mango and the pineapple juice, it’s definitely a dish that’s on the sweet side, so a savory addition might balance it out a bit. But overall we were both pretty into it. The one change I’d make to the basic recipe listed below is to wait to add the pan-fried tempeh back into the curry until the very end. What started off as delightfully crispy cubes ended up losing all crunchiness in the liquid, yet they were really too dense to absorb any of the flavors of the sauce, which seemed to be the point of adding them early. I’d just fold them at the very end instead before topping with mango and chives.
Anyone have other favorite tempeh recipes to share? I’ve already gotten a few great suggestions from readers…
Golden Tempeh Curry (serves 4)
1/8 cup olive oil
1 8-oz package of tempeh, cubed
1 medium red onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1/8 cup minced fresh ginger
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 large mango, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
chopped chives, for garnish
brown rice to accompany
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh and cook 1-2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Transfer to plate and set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and bell peppers to skillet and saute 4 minutes or until softened. Add ginger and saute 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
3. Stir in coconut milk, 1/2 cup mango, pineapple juice, curry powder, salt, and tempeh. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 5 minutes. Uncover and summer 10 minutes more, or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Top with the remaining mango cubes and chives, and serve over brown rice.