James Dickinson photo
Tempeh, a fermented cake of soybeans and grain that is used as a meat substitute, is the featured ingredient in Richmond magazine's April dining pages. Although it's available pre-made at stores such as Ellwood Thompson's Local Market and Good Foods Grocery, some people prefer to make their own. Here's a set of instructions, drawn from interviews and online resources:
Buy a package of shelled soybeans or de-hull whole soybeans by soaking them in water for six to 18 hours and stirring them until all the hulls have been removed and rise to the surface. Add the de-hulled beans to a cooking pot and pour in just enough water to cover them. Cook the beans for 30 minutes over medium heat until they are al dente.
Drain the water and allow the beans to continue cooking in the pot for a few more minutes. Once the beans are dry, remove them from the heat and cool them to about 95 degrees.
Mix 1 teaspoon of tempeh starter, a spore mixture that contains seeds of the fungal culture rhizopus oligosporus, into the beans and stir for about a minute. (You can buy the starter online.) Put the soybeans into two 18-by-28-centimeter plastic bags with holes poked in them and press the beans flat so that they form patties that are 2 to 3 centimeters thick. Place the bags in a towel and put them in an incubator at 80 to 90 degrees.
Joseph Musgrave, owner of the Harrison Street Coffee Shop, says he made his own incubator by adapting a cooler to place a heating pad, a thermometer and a 7-watt light bulb inside, with the tempeh on a cooking rack above the heat. Others have used an old refrigerator with a light bulb.
After about a day or two, you will start to notice white mold binding the mixture together, and the holes will develop gray spores — this indicates that the tempeh is done.
Tempeh Around Town
If the thought of that much effort makes you tired, plenty of vegetarian restaurants around Richmond offer their own versions of the fermented soy protein. At Harrison Street Coffee Shop ( 402 N. Harrison St., 359-8060 ), try the tempeh Rueben or the popular Full Throttle Chipotle Zeppelin, made with marinated pan-seared tempeh, chipotle sauce, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and mozzarella. Sprout Market & Café ( 1 N. Morris St., 592-5771 ) offers a glazed-tempeh sandwich, and Lamplighter Roasting Co. ( 116 S. Addison St., 728-2292 ) serves a mean barbecued tempeh with tomato and avocado.