Tempeh is a superfood that everyone has been raving about since a few years ago. It originates in Indonesia, then its popularity spreads across Southeast Asia and beyond! Having said this, you might wonder “what makes it so special?”. Moreover, there are many people asking, “is tempeh healthy? or “is tempeh gluten free?”. For those of you who are not familiar with tempeh, this article is for you!
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What is tempeh?
Tempeh is the Western spelling of “tempe” which is the original Indonesian name of this dish. As the original name suggests, tempe originates from Indonesia (specifically in Java island). People make tempeh by fermenting soybean with fungus. Typically in Indonesia, the soybean and fungus are put together inside banana leaves as wrapping for a few days under controlled temperature and humidity.
The fungus responsible for the creation of tempeh is Rhizopus oligosporus or Rhizopus oryzae. These two are also typically known as “tempeh starter”.
Do not confuse tempeh with tofu. Tofu or “tahu” in Indonesia, are as popular as tempeh. In fact, during the olden days, people in poverty often relied on “tahu tempe” with rice as their staple food (tofu and tempeh as affordable protein sources).
In recent years, more research suggests that tempeh is very nutritious and many even categorize it as “superfood”. Tempeh is rich in protein, prebiotic & probiotic and also vitamins. Prebiotic and probiotics are excellent in creating and maintaining healthy gut flora that is essential in digestion and overall immunity.
Tempeh and gluten
What is gluten?
Before answering “Is tempeh gluten free”, lets understand Gluten. Gluten is a protein that wheat plants and other grain plants commonly contain. It is naturally occurring in these plants. Other than wheat, gluten is often found in rye, barley and triticale (a cross between rye and barley). In the body, we have protease enzymes that break down proteins. However, gluten is a type of protein that proteases cannot break down. Hence, undigested gluten can make its way to the small intestine and, in some people, triggers autoimmune response in the body.
Is tempeh gluten free?
The raw material for tempeh is soya bean, onto which we add fungus (tempeh starters) to ferment it into tempeh. There is no gluten in tempeh if we only consider this.
However, there are many ways to prepare tempeh before you can consume and enjoy it as a dish. One way is to fry the tempeh. There are different types of fried tempeh dishes. Sometimes it does not use any flour, sometimes it uses rice flour as the batter and sometimes it might mix rice flour and other types of flour as the batter. If you fry tempeh without flour or if you use rice flour, the fried tempeh will be gluten free. Hence, the only time tempeh will contain gluten is when you add gluten to it. For example, using wheat flour as a batter for your fried tempeh.
Healthy dishes that can be made with tempeh
A lot of vegetarians use tempeh in their dishes as a replacement for meat. There are also a lot of other healthy dishes, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, that use tempeh as part of their ingredients. This is because tempeh is nutritious, easy to make, cheap to make and also very filling. On top of that, tempeh is very versatile. That is, you can incorporate tempeh in many different ways.
You can add grilled tempeh slices into a sandwich, or you can add grilled tempeh cubes into your salad. Other than that, you can stir fry your tempeh with your favorite vegetables to create a stir fry dish. Tempeh on its own has a very nice taste already. But if you do not like its natural taste or smell, you can choose to marinate it beforehand with soya sauce or herbs. Then you can proceed to grill or fry the marinated tempeh.
Is tempeh healthy?
Yes, tempeh is very healthy and packed with a lot of nutrients. It is also gluten free, so if you are sensitive to gluten, this is safe for you. Just be mindful of the preparation method of tempeh. You may introduce gluten to tempeh if you use wheat flour batter for your tempeh prior to frying.
Other than being healthy, it is also versatile. What we mean is that there are so many different ways to add tempeh into your dish. Also, you can be creative when you process tempeh as your cooking ingredient.