December 19, 2011

daikon shungiku salad

Here's a recipe for a nice raw salad with daikon and shungiku (garland chrysanthemum), both of which are grown locally right now in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. Sprinkling salt on the daikon can help remove its pungent flavor. You can substitute shungiku with some other bitter greens that are more readily available where you live. Mizuna, mustard greens and arugula are nice as well. The mustard gives a nice kick to the dressing. Makes 4 servings.

2 cups daikon, cut into matchsticks
sea salt
1/2 bunch shungiku OR some other bitter greens


2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp shoyu
1 tsp whole grain brown mustard


  1. Place the daikon matchsticks in a bowl and generously sprinkle some sea salt. Mix with your hand and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Destem the shungiku and place them in a bowl.
  4. Squeeze out the water from the daikon and add to the shungiku. Toss together with the dressing.

November 17, 2011

savory seitan roast

This savory seitan is drenched in herb-infused marinade and baked in the oven. Rosemary, sage and thyme are used here to make a Thanksgiving roast. Feel free to experiment with different herbs.

Ingredients (makes enough for one 8" X 8" Pyrex dish)
2 cups vital wheat gluten
2 TBS unbleached white flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 TBS dried rosemary
1 TBS dried sage
1 TBS dried thyme
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup shoyu
2 TBS vegan Worcestershire sauce (I make my own but if you don't have any, you can add more shoyu or omit it)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed with a garlic press

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
3 TBS shoyu
2 TBS vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the marinade by mixing all the ingredients.
  2. Mix vital wheat gluten, white flour, nutritional yeast and the herbs in one bowl.
  3. Mix the rest of the ingredients in another bowl.
  4. Add (3) to (2) and mix with your hands. The dough will become pretty glutenous.
  5. Press the dough into a Pyrex dish. Pour half of the marinade on top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  6. Pour the rest of the marinade on top and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes until the most of the marinade is gone.
  7. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Take the seitan roast out of the dish and slice.

How about using the seitan to prepare a wellington, a great main dish for Thanksgiving? See here.

October 30, 2011

ghost cookies

Here is a recipe for standard cookie dough that can be rolled out and cut into desired shapes. You can also divide the recipe in half, use plain brown rice syrup in one and Chocolate Rice Syrup in another, and combine the two kinds of dough for a fun marbled effect.
Happy Halloween!

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour 
1/4 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp baking soda 
1/4 tsp sea salt

3 TBS safflower oil 
1/4 cup Suzanne’s Chocolate Rice Syrup (use regular rice syrup for plain vanilla cookies) 
1 tsp vanilla extra
extra flour for rolling out the dough
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl. 
  2. Add the mixed wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix. Form into a ball with your hands. If the dough seems a little too wet, add some white flour. 
  3. Dust some flour on a parchment paper and roll out the dough thinly with a rolling pin. Cut out the dough with a cookie cutter of your choice. 
  4. Lay the cookies on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake them in a 350 degree oven (preheated) for 11 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

October 18, 2011

sesame broccoli

This dish is a simple way to enjoy broccoli. Cooked broccoli is tossed together with a slightly sweet and spicy ginger/garlic sauce. The crunch from the sesame seeds complete the dish. Enjoy!

4 cups broccoli (cut into bit-size florets)
1 TBS toasted sesame oil
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
2 TBS water
1 TBS shoyu
1 TBS brown rice syrup
1 tsp kuzu, diluted with cold water
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 TBS toasted sesame seeds

  1. Cook the broccoli in boiling water for a few minutes. Drain on a colander and set aside in a bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, place sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Cook on a medium flame. Be careful not to burn. When it becomes fragrant, add water (be careful as it may splash), shoyu and rice syrup.
  3. When the mixture comes to boil, thicken it with kuzu diluted with water. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  4. Add the sauce to the broccoli and mix. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and serve.

October 10, 2011

chocolate peanut butter cups

Reese's peanut butter cups were one of my favorite candies when I was growing up. Who would have thought you can make this sinful treat at home without the use of dairy or refined sugar? All credits to inventing this vegan/sugar-free version goes to Jessica Porter, a macrobiotic teacher known for her fun and easy-to-understand approach to macrobiotics. Her book The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics is a must read as it lays out the macrobiotic principles in down-to-earth terms. Thanks Jessica for letting me post this recipe!

You will need...
4 ounces firm organic tofu
3 tablespoons organic peanut butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp umeboshi vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used 1/2 cup rice syrup)
3 TBS maple sugar (I omitted this as I used more rice syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dairy-free grain sweetened chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil (I used safflower oil)
Mini foil baking cups as molds

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil, add tofu, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove tofu from water, and let it cool just enought so that you can handle it with your hands. wrap block of tofu in paper towel and place on a plate. Put another plate on top of the tofu and add a short, heavy weight in order to press the excess liquid out of the tofu. Press for 15 minutes.
  2. Place tofu, peanut butter, salt, umeboshi vinegar, and maple syrup in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add vanilla extract. Blend for about 2 minutes, scraping sides when necessary. Refrigerate in a closed container for 1 hour.
  3. In a double boiler, place chocolate chips and oil over boiling water. Stir until the chocolate melts. Turn off heat.
  4. With a pastry brush, coat each baking cup along the bottom and up the sides. Put in freezer until chocolate hardens. Repaint each cup to thicken the chocolate coating. Freeze again. The chocolate hardens quite quickly.
  5. When the filling has chilled for 1 hour, spoon some into each cup. If you like, you can then pain over the filling with another layer of chocolate, or leave it topless. (I added chopped peanuts on the top layer for some crunch.)
  6. When ready to eat, just peel the baking cup carefully away from the chocolate and enjoy. Store in freezer.
Recipe reprinted with permission from "The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics" by Jessica Porter.

September 26, 2011

vanilla flan with blueberries

Because the texture of this flan is so pleasantly light, this dessert is great even after a bit of a heavy meal. Agar flakes do not dissolve well in starchy liquids so they are cooked separately in water and added to the warm soy milk. Soaking the flakes for 10 minutes prior to cooking helps to dissolve them completely.

Ingredients (makes four 8-oz servings) 
Vanilla flan
2 cups soy milk
1/3 cup rice syrup
1/3 cup water
1 TBS + 1 tsp agar flakes
Pinch of salt
1 TBS vanilla extract

Blueberry topping
1 cup apple juice
1 TBS agar flakes
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (thawed)
1 TBS rice syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional garnish
Cashew cream
Mint leaves

  1. Place water and agar flakes in a small sauce pan and let the agar flakes soak for 10 minutes. Cook the mixture until the flakes dissolve completely.
  2. In another pan, place the soy milk, rice syrup and a pinch of salt. Warm up under medium flame.
  3. Add (1) to (2) and mix well. Add vanilla extract.
  4. Strain the mixture and pour into dessert bowls. Chill in refrigerator to set.
  5. To make the blueberry topping, soak agar flakes in apple juice for 10 minutes, add a pinch of salt and cook until the flakes dissolve completely.
  6. Add the blueberries and rice syrup. After the mixture comes to a boil, remove from flame and add vanilla extract.
  7. After (4) is set, pour the blueberry topping over it and chill. Decorate with cashew cream and/or mint leaves as your heart desires.

Subtle texture that melts in your mouth....

July 31, 2011

honeydew kanten

This is a nice and cooling dessert on a hot summer day. Who needs air conditioning when this well-chilled kanten instantly cools your body off? Since there is no added sweetener, I recommend using fresh fruits in season to maximize the sweetness. The strawberry topping is optional but it does brighten up the whole dessert. The recipe yields 4 to 6 servings depending on the size of the dessert cups and requires one honeydew melon.


Melon kanten
4 cups melon chunks
1/2 cup apple juice
1 TBS + 1 tsp agar flakes
Pinch of salt

Melon ball topping
1 cup melon balls
1/3 cup apple juice
1 tsp agar flakes
Pinch of salt
1 tsp kuzu dissolved in 1 TBS apple juice

Strawberry topping
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, diced
1/3 cup apple juice
1 tsp agar flakes
Pinch of salt
1 tsp kuzu dissolved in 1 TBS apple juice

  1. First, cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds. Using a melon baller or a measuring teaspoon, cut out melon balls. After you make sure you have enough for decoration, peel and cut the rest in chunks for the kanten part.
  2. To make melon kanten, place apple juice, agar flakes and a pinch of salt in a small pot and heat until the agar flakes are completely dissolved (about 10 minutes). 
  3. Purée the melon chunks in a blender (you should have about 2 cups) and place in a separate pot. Warm up on a medium flame. Add the apple juice/agar mixture to the melon purée. Pour into individual dessert cups and set aside to cool. 
  4. To make the melon ball topping, place apple juice, agar flakes and a pinch of salt in another pot and heat to completely dissolve the agar flakes, stirring occasionally. Thicken with kuzu dissolved in apple juice. At the last minute, throw in the melon balls and turn off the flame. Set aside to cool a bit. 
  5. Prepare the strawberry topping in the same way as the melon ball topping. 
  6. Decorate the melon balls and strawberries on top of the melon kanten. Garnish with mint leaves and serve chilled.

Delicious even without the strawberries!

    June 6, 2011

    vegan bibimbap

    When I lived in Japan, I would take some time off to visit other countries in Asia: the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand.... Among them, South Korea was by far my favorite. Energetic night markets, the skin rejuvenating spas, friendly people and oh the food! Pretty much anywhere you go, you order something and they give you a dozen side dishes, mostly with vegetables. Here is my version of bibimbap, a signature Korean dish with rice topped with vegetables and usually some meat. Since it's hard to find organic gochujang (chili pepper paste) with no sugar or additives, I attempted to make my own. I know it's not much of a recipe except for the proportions for the gochujang, but bibimbap is meant to be a quick "mixed meal" that you can throw anything on top.

    2 TBS barley miso
    1 TBS brown rice syrup
    1 TBS ground sesame seeds
    2 tsp toasted sesame oil
    2 tsp red paprika
    1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

    Cooked rice
    Seitan (sliced and cooked in a sauce made with some gochujang, water and a splash of mirin)
    Carrot matchsticks (pressed w/ ume vinegar)
    Bean sprouts (cooked for a few minutes and seasoned with toasted sesame oil and shoyu)
    Something green (I used fresh mizuna but you can also use sliced cucumbers, cooked spinach, fiddle head ferns, etc.)
    Sesame seeds for garnish

    1. To make gochujang, mix everything in a bowl.
    2. Serve some warm rice in a rice bowl and place the toppings. Garnish with sesame seeds.
    3. Put a dollop of gochujang, mix and eat! Mashisoyo!

    May 23, 2011

    vegetable strudel

    With their beautiful presentation, strudels make a great appetizer/finger food. Baked until crispy and filled with herb infused filling, these are crunchy on the outside and bursting with flavor in the inside. Pretty much anything can be used as filling; just make sure that the vegetables are not too wet or else they can make the whole strudel soggy. Don't be intimidated by the use of phyllo dough. It does require a teeny bit of patience but the results are well worth it!

    (makes about 9 pieces)
    2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
    1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
    1 onion, diced
    1 carrot, diced
    1 yam, diced
    1/2 - 1 red bell pepper, diced (optional)

    Salt & pepper to taste
    1 TBS balsamic vinegar
    1 tsp dried thyme

    1 bunch of scallions, sliced

    1/2 recipe of Easy Cheezy Tofu Ricotta (optional)

    1 roll of phyllo dough (Fillo Factory makes great organic ones)
    *Phyllo dough must be thawed before using. I take them out from the freezer the night before and thaw them overnight in the fridge.

    Extra virgin olive oil for brushing

    1. Sauté garlic in oil until fragrant. Add diced onion and sauté until translucent. Continue to sauté diced carrot, yam and red bell pepper (if using) in that order, each for a few minutes or until done. Season with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and dried thyme. Throw in scallions at the end. Set aside to cool.
    2. After the filling has cooled down to body temperature, add tofu ricotta (if using).
    3. Spread out the phyllo dough on a work surface. (Make sure you cover the phyllo with a damp towel when not using.) Take a sheet and place on a cutting board. Brush liberally with oil and place another layer of phyllo on top. Repeat the process until you have 5 to 6 layers. (No oil on the top layer.)
    4. Cut the sheets into thirds lengthwise. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the filling on the bottom part, leaving some space on the sides. Roll the phyllo tightly while tucking the sides in.
    5. Place the strudels on an oiled baking pan. Bake them at 350°F (preheated) for 15-20 minutes until the outside looks slightly brown.

    May 6, 2011

    apple delight

    Did you know that gelatin is actually a slaughterhouse by-product that comes from the collagen in cow or pig bones, hooves, and connective tissues? Really, who wants all that in a nice dessert that is meant to make you relax? Well, there is a more appetizing alternative for gelatin in the vegan/macrobiotic world called agar agar or kanten. Agar agar is a sea vegetable that helps liquids to gel. This dessert is a twist on the simple yet relaxing macrobiotic dessert, apple kanten. I made this for a friend who was on a healing journey and she went crazy! The texture is surprisingly smooth and rich, considering the fact that it contains no soy, gluten or nuts. It's the little bit of tahini that gives a nice richness.

    (Serves 4)
    Apple mousse
    3 cups apple juice
    4 tsp agar flakes
    Pinches of salt
    2 apples (peeled and cut into chunks)
    2 TBS tahini
    2 TBS rice syrup (adjust to liking)

    4 tsp kuzu (dissolved in 2 TBS apple juice or water)

    Apple topping
    1 cup apple juice
    1 tsp agar flakes
    Pinch of salt
    2 apples (diced)

    1. In a pot, place the apple juice, agar flakes and pinches of salt and put it on medium high flame to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the flakes dissolve.
    2. Add the cut apples and cook until soft for about 5 minutes.
    3. Place the contents in a blender along with tahini and rice syrup and blend until smooth. (Make sure the blender is not totally full since the contents may spill due to the hot liquid.)
    4. Return to pot and when it comes to boil, add kuzu dissolved in apple juice and stir until it thickens. Pour it into parfait glasses. Chill to set.
    5. In a small pot, place apple juice, a pinch of salt and agar flakes. Cook until the flakes dissolve completely. Add diced apples and cook lightly.
    6. Put the topping onto the apple mousse. Chill and serve! 

      April 27, 2011

      double fudge brownies

      Guilt-free brownies sound like an oxymoron, but here they are! These contain no simple sugar, no eggs, no dairy but yet have the texture of non-vegan brownies that have all the “stuff” that makes them taste good. The secret ingredient is  a paste made from purple sweet potatoes, which have a chocolate-y taste on their own. It lends the brownies the desired texture of being moist in the inside but crunchy on the outside.


      Purple sweet potato paste
      1/4 lb purple sweet potatoes
      1/4 cup water
      1 TBS brown rice syrup

      1/2 cup maple sugar
      2/3 cups flour (I use a combination of whole spelt and unbleached white flour)
      1/2 cup cocoa powder
      1/2 tsp baking powder

      1/4 cup safflower oil
      1/4 cup maple syrup
      1/4 cup rice milk (or any milk substitute)
      1 TBS vanilla extract
      1/4 tsp salt

      1/2 cup roasted pecan nuts (chopped) (optional)
      1/2 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips (optional)


      1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into chunks. Place them in a pot with water and cover. Turn the flame down when it starts to boil and cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until tender.
      2. Place the cooked sweet potatoes in a food processor with brown rice syrup. Process until it forms a paste. (The consistency should resemble that of mashed potatoes.) You should end up with about 1/2 cup of the paste.
      3. Place maple sugar in a bowl and sift the rest of the dry ingredients.
      4. Put the wet ingredients in another bowl and whisk until it emulsifies.
      5. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add pecan nuts and chocolate chips, if using.
      6. Pour the batter into an oiled 9 x 9 baking pan. Bake in an  oven (preheated at 350°F) for 20 minutes. (I use a muffin pan and the recipe yields about 10 three-inch brownies.) Insert a skewer and if nothing sticks, remove from oven and let cool before cutting.

      April 19, 2011

      kabocha salad with sesame dressing

      Although I love all winter squashes, as a native of Hokkaido, I must admit that I am very partial to Kabocha squash, which originated in the northern island of Japan. I remember my grandparents would send us a case of this variety of squash at the height of its season. We would enjoy the sweet and nutty flavored Kabocha in so many ways:  simply steamed with a pinch of salt, deep-fried in tempura batter, made into croquettes, puréed to make chowder, blended into puddings…. Here’s another simple but tasty way to prepare it. Delicious even cold, this salad was one of the popular items at the deli.


      Half of kabocha squash, seeds scooped out and cut into bite sized pieces
      2 stalks celery, minced

      1/4 cup of sesame dressing (recipe below)

      Toasted pumpkin seeds

      1. Place the kabocha in a steamer, sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt and steam for 10 to 15 minutes or until soft. 
      2. Blanch the minced celery quickly. Drain. 
      3. Toss the steamed kabocha, celery and sesame dressing together.
      4. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and chopped parsley. Serve.

      Sesame Dressing

      1/2 cup sesame seeds (toasted)
      1 tsp ume vinegar
      1 tsp ume paste
      1 TBS sweet white miso
      3/4 cup water

      Place everything in a blender and blend until the consistency is smooth. This dressing will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

      April 13, 2011

      almond jam dots

      I always liked crunchy "jaw breaking" cookies in the past but I've become very fond of moist, chewy cookies over the last few years. These jam dots are the soft kind. The almonds give a nice crumbly texture. I use almond meal from Trader Joe's but you can also make your own by processing some roasted almonds in a blender. This recipe makes about 20 small cookies.


      1/2 cup maple syrup
      1/2 cup safflower oil
      1 tsp vanilla extract
      1/4 tsp sea salt

      1 cup almond meal
      2 cups flour (I used a combination of oat and whole spelt)

      Jam of your choice (sweetened with fruit juice; Bionaturae makes a good one)

      1. Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl. I like to dissolve the salt in the wet ingredients. 
      2. Place the almond meal in a bowl and sift the flour into the bowl. Mix well. 
      3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until well incorporated. 
      4. Use an ice cream scoop of the batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Make an indentation with your thumb or with the back of a wooden spoon and fill it with some jam. 
      5. Bake for 11 minutes in a preheated oven of 350°F. Rotate the cookie sheet and bake for another 5 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

      April 7, 2011

      carrot beet slaw

      When it comes to beets, you either love them or hate them. Although I must admit I am not a beet lover myself, I like adding a tiny bit to a mock tomato sauce made with carrots and red onions and also using it to make my own food coloring. I do like this fresh and colorful slaw marinated with a mustard vinaigrette. The sweet taste of beets go perfectly well with the sour savory dressing. The carrots and celery add a nice flavor as well. This is one of the few occasions I use the shredding disk of the food processor. It makes the dish a snap to prepare and it is less messy.


      1 beet (1 cup shredded)
      2 carrots (1 cup shredded)
      1 stalk of celery (sliced)
      2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
      2 tsp brown rice vinegar
      1/2 tsp ume vinegar
      1 tsp Dijion mustard
      Pinches of garlic powder (optional)
      Salt & pepper to taste

      1. Shred the beet and carrots in a food processor using the disk. Cut the celery into thin slices. Place everything in a big bowl. 
      2. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. 
      3. Pour the vinaigrette onto the vegetables and mix well. Adjust the seasonings and serve.

      April 4, 2011

      pasta with spicy peanut sauce

      Rich, creamy and slightly sweet and spicy, peanut sauce is many people’s favorite. Usually the sauce contains sugar but this version is sweetened with white miso. The spicy peanut sauce also makes a nice dressing and a dipping sauce for summer rolls. Here it is tossed together with some pasta and vegetables. This dish is delicious served cold as a salad or warm as a main dish.


      3 cup of pasta

      2 shallots or 1 onion, sliced into half moons
      1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
      1 head of broccoli, cut into florets

      Spicy Peanut Sauce

      1 TBS toasted sesame oil
      1 TBS minced ginger
      1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
      3/4 to 1 cup water or vegetable stock
      1/2 cup peanut butter, unsalted
      1 TBS sweet white miso
      2 tsp shoyu or Bragg’s

      Chopped peanuts

      Parsley or scallions for garnish
      1. Cook the pasta according to directions. Run it under cold water after cooking. Drain and set aside. 
      2. Meanwhile, water sauté shallots until translucent. Add carrots and sauté for a few minutes. Blanch the broccoli florets. Set them aside. 
      3. To make the spicy peanut sauce, sauté minced ginger in sesame oil. Add some red pepper flakes (adjust the mount to your liking). Remove from heat when ginger becomes fragrant. Add some water to stop the cooking process. (Be careful as it may splatter.) 
      4. Place the ginger/pepper concoction in the blender with the rest of the ingredients. Start with 3/4 cups of water. Blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and thickness. 
      5. If serving warm, warm up the sauce in a pot and add the vegetables and pasta. If serving cold, mix everything in a bowl and chill.  Sprinkle some chopped peanuts and garnish with parsley or scallions.

      March 30, 2011

      tofu "egg" salad

      This salad makes a great sandwich filling. The dill pickles give it a nice crunch and tart/sweet flavor. I was never so fond of real egg salad because of its overwhelming eggy-ness, but this vegan version is quite tasty. Just be careful with the amount of turmeric. Even if it looks like you didn’t put enough, the color becomes slightly brighter after you let it sit for a bit. If you keep adding more thinking that it's not yellow enough, you may end up with neon yellow salad that doesn’t resemble the color of egg salad at all! (Trust me, I’ve learned it the hard way!)

      makes about 1.5 cups
      1 1-lb block of firm tofu
      1/2 red onion, minced (about 3/4 cup)
      Splash of Ume vinegar
      3-4 pieces of dill pickles, minced (about 1/3 cup)
      1/2 cup vegan mayo (earth balance mildful mayo and Vegenaise are good choices because they are sweetened with brown rice syrup)
      2 TBS brown mustard
      1/4 tsp cumin
      1/8 tsp celery seeds
      1/8 tsp turmeric

      Ground black pepper

      1. Cook the tofu in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain and press the water out by placing the tofu between two plates and putting a weight on top (as seen in the right photo).
      2. Place the minced red onion in a bowl and add a generous splash of ume vinegar. Let it sit for a while until it pickles lightly. (If your body doesn’t agree with raw onions, you can sauté them in a little water too.) 
      3. Crumble up the tofu by hand in a bowl and add everything else. Serve as a sandwich/wrap filling (with carrot/beet slaw on the side) or eat with crackers. Enjoy!
      (updated November 14, 2012)

      March 28, 2011

      homemade tempeh

      I have been taking some black soybean tea, which is a nice relaxing tonic for various ailments. I enjoy the tea but I didn't know what to do with all the beans leftover from the tea. I hate throwing food away so I tried to make use of them by cooking them with rice, dried chestnuts, etc. but was running out of ideas and getting a bit tired of the taste. Plus, I ended up with so much! So I decided to make some tempeh. My first attempt!
      Black soybean tea
      Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that has a rich taste and substance. It is a great source of protein and also is rich in iron and calcium. Very versatile like tofu, you can pan fry them with soy sauce, bake them in a marinade, deep fry them and season them teriyaki style (my favorite!), mash them after steaming and make a "tuna" salad... Possibilities are endless!

      It will take about a couple of days to make homemade tempeh. Although the process of popping off the skins is a bit tedious, it is overall pretty simple to make. The smell of fresh batch of tempeh is worth every effort!

      Homemade Black Soybean Tempeh

      Generally, you need a incubator to ferment the tempeh. But if you're like me and have a generator that stays pretty warm, you might find my method useful. (Although it only works during the winter...) You can also use an oven that has a pilot. I have read that you can leave it outside if you live in a warm climate but I have yet to experiment....

      You will need...

      2 cups of cooked soybeans
      (I used beans that were boiled for about 30 minutes for the tea.)
      sprinkle of rice vinegar
      1 tsp of tempeh starter (available online)

      ziplock bags
      steamer tray w/ a pan and a cover
      Pyrax or some kind of tray to place the bagged tempeh in
      warm radiator


      Take the cooked beans and rub them between your hands to loosen the skins. I must admit, this is a pretty tedious process but if you get through this, it's all relatively easy. You can leave some of the skins on if, like me, you get inpatient towards the end.

      Boil the beans for 30-40 minutes. You don't want to cook them all the way. The fermentation takes care of breaking the beans down. 

      Drain the beans, sprinkle some vinegar and place the beans on a cloth to let them cool and dry. When they are body temperature, sprinkle the tempeh starter and mix with the beans so the starter distributes evenly.

      Place the inoculated beans into ziplock bags, seal them and distribute  the beans so they form a layer of even thickness between 1/2 to 1 inch. Poke holes in the bags using a needle (I used a relatively thick needle made for doll making).

      Place the bags on Pyrex containers and put them in a steamer tray  over a pan that has some warm water. Cover and place on radiator. Check the temperature so it's around 80 to 90°F. I took it off the radiator once it hit the 90°F mark.

      Tempeh incubating
      Keeping the temperature around 85°F seems to be the key. Note that after 12 hours, tempeh starts to generate its own heat so pay attention to the temperature inside the "incubator."

      After 16 hours

      After 24 hours

      Starting to develop a white coating
      Tempeh is done after 22 to 28 hours of incubation. It should have a dense and white uniform coating of mycelium. According to Aveline Kushi, "good tempeh has a clear, pleasant, sweet, or mushroomy aroma and can be lifted as a single cake and held without crumbling."
      After 27 hours. Done!

      Nice white coating!

      When it was ready to eat, I sliced the tempeh thinly and pan fried the slices with some toasted sesame oil and a dash of shoyu. It was very good!

      I plan to continue making tempeh with different kinds of beans. In Japan, I have had black soybean tempeh with the skins intact. Japanese soybeans cook pretty fast and get plump when cooked. The skins are not as tough as the ones you find here. I will continue my experiment. Stay tuned!