Tempeh. “What-eh?” you may be thinking. Tempeh. Fermented soybean cakes. Mmmmmmmm. No, really, Mmmmmmm! Two tempeh dishes are on regular menu rotation here – tempeh fajitas from the now defunct Veggie Life and Baja-style tempeh tacos from Veganomicon (say that six times fast). I have seen recipes for tempeh “bacon” and fried rice, but I have stuck with the Mexican preparations so far.
What’s the appeal of tempeh? Like tofu, it is something that is often used as a meat stand-in in vegetarian diets in the west. Tempeh is firmer and can have a more crumbly texture than tofu. It is a blank canvas – it takes on whatever flavors you put it in, which is why marinading is a good idea. It is a source of vitamin B 12 which can be scarce in vegetarian diets.
However you slice it, tempeh gets high marks in our house. If you don’t want to embark on the tempeh adventure, you can always substitute chicken!
Baja-Style Tempeh Tacos adapted from Veganomicon
serves 4 (about 2 tacos each)
Note: Each component needs about an hour to meld or marinate. So plan accordingly.
3 cups shredded cabbage, preferable Savoy
1 carrot, grated
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 serrano chile, seeded and membranes removed, minced (I use serranos instead of jalapenos. They have a deeper flavor.)
1/3 c. sour cream
1 Tbs. lime juice
1 Tbs. vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
2 Tbs. cilantro
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup beer
2 cloves garlic, crushed and papery skin removed
2 Tbs. peanut oil
2 Tbs . soy sauce
2 Tbs. lime juice
2-3 tsp. chile powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 8-oz package tempeh
8-12 corn tortillas
Toppings like thinly sliced radishes, diced tomatoes, diced avocados, taco sauce, pickled jalapenos, whatever you like.
For the slaw: Mix all of the ingredients in a non-metallic bowl and then place a weight on top of the slaw (something like a small plate or other flat object with heavy can on top of it). Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. If it’s very juicy, you can squeeze the juice out of it before adding to your taco.
For the crema: blend all the ingredients together and let it chill for an hour.
For the tempeh: Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow container like a pie plate. Cut the tempeh lengthwise in 3 equal portions, then slice each in half horizontally. Marinate the tempeh for an hour, turning occasionally.
Pan fry the tempeh in a lightly oiled cast iron skillet over medium heat. Brown each side – maybe about 5 minutes a side – then pour the marinade into the pan and cook over medium until most of the marinade has soaked into the tempeh. Slice the tempeh into thin strips.
Heat up the corn tortillas (I wrap mine in a damp towel and microwave for 1 minute). Put a few strips of tempeh in the middle of your tortilla and top with abandon – slaw, crema, taco sauce, tomatoes, radishes, pickled jalapenos,avocados.
I served Mexican rice on the side.
Me: A (This is one of my favorites)