Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Tempeh was invented in Indonesia, and unlike miso and soy sauce is not a salty preserved condiment but an unsalted, quick-fermented, perishable main ingredient. It’s made by cooking whole soybeans, forming them into thin layers, and fermenting with a mold, Rhizopus oligosporus or R. oryzae, for 24 hours at a warm, tropical temperature (85–90°F/30–33°C). The mold grows and produces thread-like hyphae, which penetrate the beans and bind them together, and digest significant amounts of protein and oil to flavorful fragments. Fresh tempeh has a yeasty, mushroomy aroma; when sliced and fried, it develops a nutty, almost meaty flavor.