I love to travel, and I also love food. When I spent 8 months in Asia in 2016, I was in heaven. There is something very special about eating food in the country where it originated. For example, eating Pad Thai in Thailand was simply amazing. Enjoying chana masala ‘the local way’ (with my hands) in India - unbeatable. But discovering one of my new favourite foods (tempeh) in a traditional dish called ‘gado-gado’ in Indonesia was a highlight!
Gado-gado is a traditional Indonesian dish which is not only fun to say, but also extremely delicious. This vegetarian friendly dish is an Indonesian salad containing blanched bean sprouts, cabbage, green beans, boiled potatoes, a delicious peanut sauce and tempeh.
The first time I tried gado-gado I was hooked, not only on the dish, but on tempeh. Even my carnivorous travel buddy at the time became obsessed.
What is Tempeh?
To put it simply, tempeh is fermented soybeans in a cake-like form.
I realize that may not sound appealing, but hear me out.
This vegetarian protein source has a savoury, nutty flavour and is very versatile. It can be made into vegetarian burger patties, added to sandwiches or included into stir-frys. My favourite way to enjoy tempeh is as a topper on a fresh garden salad, or of course, in gado-gado!
To create this lovely soybean cake, tempeh is fermented with Rhizopus - which is a species of mould. The fermentation process not only enhances flavour, but also adds health benefits. Unprocessed, soybeans contains phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of some minerals. During fermentation, the phytic acid is broken down, which increases the availability of certain nutrients. Soy fermentation is also said to increase the total amount of vitamins and minerals in the final product, making it healthier overall.
There are many health benefits associated with tempeh, some of the most overwhelming benefits include:
- Excellent protein source (on average - 21 grams of protein per 100 gram serving!)
- Source of Iron (15% of your daily recommended intake, per 100 grams)
- High in folic acid
- Low in saturated fat
- Free of trans fats
- Free of cholesterol
- Free of sodium
- High in fibre
- Source of calcium
Since Tempeh is a fermented food and not processed, it helps with you gut health (great for those who have IBS, yeast infections, allergies, asthma), and it is also rich in enzymes. It is also very low on the glycemic index, which means, friendly for your sugar levels.>
Since leaving Indonesia I have been looking for a really great tempeh, but found it very difficult. Tempeh is not common (yet) in North America, and finding somewhere that offered fresh tempeh was nearly impossible.
I struck gold when I discovered a Vancouver company called Tempea at a Farmer’s Market this past summer. The founders of Tempea are committed to creating the best tempeh and use only fresh, organic ingredients.
If you are from Vancouver, or ever visit, definitely try Tempea’s delicious tempeh - but make sure you leave some for me!
If you are located in Ontario, a great tempeh company is Henry's Tempeh. Henry's produces handcrafted artisanal tempeh from organic, locally grown soybeans.
Gado - Gado Recipe
Potatoes, boiled until cooked
Fried Shallots (optional)
1/2 cup shelled organic peanuts (85g) *optional
1 TBS organic palm sugar (1/2 ounce; 15g)
3 medium cloves garlic
2 medium-sized shallots
2 lime leaves
1 TBS tamarind paste (15ml)
2 TBS grapeseed oil (30ml)
Bird’s Eye (Thai) chili or dry chili flakes, to taste (optional)
1. Prepare boiling water and an ice bath. Blanch vegetables, checking for doneness after 30 seconds or so. Plunge cooked vegetables into ice bath until cooled completely, drain and chill.
2. Pan-fry garlic, shallots, chili and lime leaves until fragrant.
3. Toast peanuts in a 375°F (191°C) oven until golden brown (approx. 5 minutes).
4. Cut tempeh into 0.5cm thick strips and pan fry until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and set aside with cooked vegetables.
5. Combine together peanuts, palm sugar and tamarind paste along with the aromatics into a food processor and grind until coarse. Add water until desired thickness is achieved.
6. Toss the blanched vegetables in peanut sauce, top with fried shallots and pan-fried tempeh.
Jenna Laurita is a world traveller and part of the withinUs Team. She has a great passion for adventure, and since 2009 has travelled to over 25 countries. Since becoming a member of the withinUs Team, Jenna's love for wholesome, nutritious food has grown, and as she travels her recipe book grows. Stay tuned for more of her favourite healthy travel recipes!