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!

1 comment:

  1. Yukiko,

    Great idea for using water to keep the temperature stable. Thanks for sharing it!

    I have one bag that is till sitting in front of my heater. I should follow your method.