Tempeh is fermented soy-based treat created by way of soaking, dehulling, and partially cooking whole soybeans. They are then brewed in Rhizopus spores before they are ready for cooking. In Indonesia, the traditional method of fermentation is by wrapping the soybeans in waru leaves, which contain spores on their undersides that are used in the fermentation process. Although we Indonesians see it as just another dish in our culinary lexicon, Westerners herald tempeh as a superfood and a revolutionary source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. Throughout centuries, we’ve incorporated it into a variety of time-honoured dishes, including Tempe Orak Arik, Tempe Bacem, and Tempe Mendoan. Here are some interesting facts about tempeh that you may not have heard of.
1. Tempeh is more nutritious than tofu
Tofu might be great and all, but tempeh would take the honours in a soybean battle. It is far less processed than tofu, yet it still retains more nutritional properties from the soybeans. It is also higher in protein and fibre as well. For every half cup, it contains 15.4 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fibre as opposed to its counterpart’s 10.1 grams of protein and 0.5 grams of fibre.
2. Tempeh’s fermentation process makes it one of the easiest soy foods to digest
Beans contain oligosaccharides – a type of molecule that is quite difficult to digest and responsible for the gassy feeling you get after eating them. Tempeh’s Rhizopus spores break down the oligosaccharides into usable nutrients so that your intestines don’t have to do it for you.
3. Tempeh relieves symptoms of menopause and prevents breast cancer
For women, menopause is a fact of life; it’s unavoidable. However tempeh can make it more bearable. Menopause is characterised by lower levels of oestrogen later in life. Tempeh contains isoflavones, which is a type of plant hormone that mimics oestrogen. Eating lots of tempeh brings many isoflavones into your body, making up for the lack of oestrogen. Tempeh can also minimise the risks of breast cancer by virtue of its isoflavones, as excessive levels of oestrogen are the main causes of breast cancer. The tempeh’s isoflavones help regulate hormonal balance and lessen the effects of oestrogen.
4. Tempeh is high in probiotics
Probiotics – also known as good bacteria – perform many important tasks such as easing digestion, strengthening the immune system, and keeping your skin healthy. Tempeh contains lots of probiotics thanks to the fermentation process that creates and promotes the growth of good bacteria.
5. Tempeh is the result of one marvellous accident
Historian Ong Hok Ham believes that tempeh started out as the by-product of the Javanese tofu industry in the seventeenth century. When workers discovered that the waste from the tofu had been fermented with mould, they were brave – or foolish, whichever way you see it – enough to eat it. Their realisation that it was edible led to the pioneering of tempeh.