How to perfectly cook tempeh

It turns out Instant Pot is a great way to cook tempeh, writes Joe Yonan

Thursday 19 May 2022 12:00
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<p>This dish is tasty enough to eat on its own </p>

This dish is tasty enough to eat on its own

I’ve gone on record in praise of tempeh, the fermented soybean cakes that are a staple in my plant-based diet. Nutritionally, it’s a superstar, high in protein, fiber and probiotics. And when it’s cooked right, it has a nutty taste and soft-but-dense texture, making it fit seamlessly into preparations that usually call for meat.

Let me repeat that qualifier: “when it’s cooked right.” If you merely pan-fry a whole block of tempeh and season it with nothing but salt and pepper, you’ll end up with something dry and uninteresting. Add some liquid, in the form of steam or a braising sauce, and the tempeh opens up, leaving it able to soak up flavour. It also becomes pleasantly soft, while retaining some chew.

Turns out, the Instant Pot is a great way to cook it. (Is there anything the IP can’t do?) In this recipe, you use the pot to braise it in a mixture that features gochujang, the Korean spicy-sweet chilli paste, then cook down the sauce until it’s thick enough to coat the tempeh pieces.

The dish is tasty enough to eat just like that, perhaps with rice or noodles. But for something more festive, you pair it with quick-pickled vegetables and wrap it all up in leaves of Bibb or butter lettuce. The crunchy, tart pickles act as foils to the spicy tempeh, and the lettuce-wrap setup makes them fun to assemble and eat, no utensils required.

Gochugang-braised tempeh lettuce wraps

Active time: 25 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Serves: 6

The Instant Pot makes fast work of braising tempeh, turning it softer and letting it soak up this sweet-spicy sauce. The nuggets of fermented soybeans pair here with crisp quick-pickled vegetables, eaten in lettuce wraps for a fun dinner with a kick.

Make ahead: The pickled vegetables can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before making the wraps.

Storage notes: Refrigerate tempeh leftovers for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Refrigerate the pickles for up to 3 days.

Where to buy: Gochujang can be found in many well-stocked supermarkets or in Asian markets.

Ingredients

240ml unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tbsp granulated sugar

½ cucumber, thinly sliced on the bias

110g bean sprouts

4 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 tsp toasted sesame oil, divided

4 tsp grated fresh ginger, divided

240ml water

3 tbsp gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

2 tbsp agave syrup or maple syrup

2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

4 garlic cloves, finely grated or pressed

450g tempeh, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1½cm pieces

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

2 heads Bibb lettuce (230g), leaves separated

Method

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar and sugar. Microwave on HIGH until steaming, 1 to 2 minutes, then whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add the cucumber and bean sprouts and let sit, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Drain the vegetables and return them to the now-empty bowl. Stir in the scallions, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of the ginger. Set aside until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, in the Instant Pot or another multicooker, whisk together the water, gochujang, agave or maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, the remaining oil and the remaining ginger. Arrange the tempeh in as close to an even layer in the pot as possible and spoon the sauce over the top of any pieces that aren't submerged. Lock the lid into place and make sure the steam valve is sealed. Select PRESSURE (HIGH) and set the cook time to 12 minutes (it should take a few minutes for the appliance to come to pressure).

Once the timer goes off, release the pressure manually by moving the pressure-release handle to “Venting”, covering your hand with a towel and making sure to keep your hand and face away from the vent when the steam releases. Carefully remove the lid, allowing the steam to escape away from you. Transfer the tempeh to a serving dish.

Using the highest SAUTE function, simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the appliance off. Spoon the sauce over the tempeh, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve in lettuce leaves with the pickled vegetables. Serve warm.

Nutrition information per serving (9 pieces tempeh, 3 large lettuce leaves, using agave, without the pickles) | Calories: 212; total fat: 9g; saturated fat: 2g; cholesterol: 0mg; sodium: 391mg; carbohydrates: 20g; dietary fibre: 2g; sugar: 9g; protein: 16.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from ‘Healthy and Delicious Instant Pot’ by America's Test Kitchen (2021).

© The Washington Post

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