Tuesday, September 27, 2011

baha-style tempeh tacos

A few nights ago, in the throes of insomnia, I did the thing I always do when I can't sleep; I perused endless news blogs and ordered a pile of books on Amazon. Sometimes when I do this, a package arrives days later and I open it and think, "Huh?" My judgment at 4 AM can be a little clouded. This time, I had ordered three vegan cookbooks after reading about Bill Clinton's impressive transformation and following a Google thread for a deeper look into the lifestyle. It wasn't the first time I had considered veganism; except for a brief period of vegetarianism in my teens, my diet has never reconciled very well with my love and respect for animals. I figured I could at least explore adding vegan meals to my repertoire, but first I would need help familiarizing myself with uses for a few of the mainstays: tempeh and seitan. 

For this post, I went with tempeh. Although I have eaten tempeh at restaurants, I hadn't cooked with it so I was surprised to discover a good variety representing assorted legumes and grains. I started with a classic soybean tempeh, and found the recipe below in Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Since I love fish tacos I thought it would be interesting to see if these tacos could hold their own against others in the class. 

The recipe calls for a beer marinade spiked with typical barbecue seasonings and garlic. Since the tempeh is best prepped a day ahead to marinate overnight, I prepared the accompanying slaw and crema too while I was at it so I would be set for a quick meal the next day.

The following evening I removed the tempeh from the marinade (reserving the marinade), but instead of browning all the pieces at once, I started with a few to get an idea how they tasted in case the flavors needed tweaking. I browned them in oil and finally basted them with a bit of marinade until the pieces were coated with a nice glaze. Then I sliced the chunks crosswise and tested a sample. For my taste, the tempeh was bland, despite all the seasonings in the marinade. I decided to apply a quick rub of cumin and chipotle chili powder to the other pieces before browning them. This helped form a spicy crust and perked up the flavors considerably.

The red cabbage for the slaw was quickly shredded in a food processor. I followed the instructions and added apple cider vinegar, but later wished I had used lime juice in its place. The slaw was very acidic which I knew meant I wouldn't be able to pile it on for the crunch I like in fresh tacos.

The crema called for non-dairy yogurt but since I didn't have it I defied vegan rules (that didn't take long; oh well, one step at a time) and used 2 percent Greek yogurt. I also left out the oil because the crema was rich enough without it.

The tacos were very enticing to look at, but I wasn't completely satisfied with their flavor. Mostly, I was disappointed by the harsh vinegar clang. Although tempeh looks rich and meaty, it's actually too lean to stand up to all that acid in my opinion. Maybe the authors use a mellower cider vinegar, but if I make these again I'll use lime juice in the slaw, and not too much of it. Also, I'd leave out the pickled jalapenos (more sharp acid) and rely on a shot of hot sauce on top instead. 

I realize vegan veterans may disagree with my comments completely! I'm not an instant convert, but still very interested in exploring more recipes from my new books in posts to come. Philosophically and medically, veganism is looking more and more like a no-brainer. Maybe one day I'll get there.

Baha-Style Tempeh Tacos

Taco Slaw
3 heaping cups shreddes purple cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 pickled jalapenos, diced finely
1 teaspoon salt
a few twists of freshly ground black pepper

Lime Crema
3/4 cup plain soy yogurt
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or avocado oil
1/3 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Chile-Beer Marinade
3/4 cup pilsner or ale
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 - 3 teaspoons chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 8-ounce package tempeh
12-16 soft corn tortillas

red radishes, sliced paper thin
fresh tomato, seeded and diced
pickled jalapenos, sliced
Mexican hot sauce
avocado, sliced or diced

Prepare the slaw:
Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down on top of the slaw. Weight the slaw down with a can of beans or a full pickle jar and place in fridge to sit for at least an hour. Slaw improves the longer it is allowed to mellow. When ready to use, squeeze out handfuls to release any excess juice.

Make the crema:
Blend ingredients in a blender until creamy and smooth. Add more salt or lime juice if desired. Pour into airtight container and chill for an hour.

Make the marinade:
Whisk all the ingredients together and pour into a glass pie plate or casserole dish.

Prepare the tempeh:
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Slice the tempeh into 3 pieces lengthwise, then slice each in half horizontally through the middle. When the water is boiling, add the tempeh, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove tempeh from water and place in marinade. Marinate for 1 hour, flipping them occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Liberally grease a grill pan with peanut oil and place over medium high heat or coat a heavy skillet with enough peanut oil to lightly coat its surface, and preheat.

Remove pieces of seitan from marinade with tongs. **Reserve marinade. Grill or fry each side of the tempeh pieces for 5 minutes. When each side is almost done, spoon some of the marinade over the tempeh at let it cook for 30 or more seconds. Remove the tempeh from the heat and slice into thin strips. Keep warm, covered in foil in the oven while preparing and assembling tacos. Continue to heat your heavy skillet once the tempeh is done. If the skillet is too sticky use a new one or  wipe it down to continue.

Assemble tacos:
Heat corn tortilla in the skillet for 30 seconds, then flip it and heat until it has become soft and pliable. Repeat with second tortilla and arrange both, slightly overlapping, on serving dish. (Using 2 tortillas per taco allows heavier toppings.) If not using immediately, stack tortillas, wrap tightly in foil and keep warm in oven.

Spread a little crema down the center of the tortillas, add some slaw, top with tempeh and garnish with whatever you like. Drizzle on extra crema and hot sauce, if desired. Fold and eat.

Serves 4-6

*Recipe from Veganomicon by Isa Chandrs Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romano, De Capo Press 2007


I mixed a heaping tablespoon each of chipotle chili powder and cumin to create a rub for the tofu pieces. Roll tofu in spices after marinating and before browning in skillet.

If I make this again, I'll use lime juice in the slaw and omit the pickled jalapenos.

I used 2 percent Greek yogurt in the crema and omitted the oil.


  1. Tempeh is tricky and you handled it well! Applauding your vegan effort and I welcome more recipes to come in this vein because I know you'll turn out something delicious AND fully nourishing.
    Moosewood did a Tempeh Reuben waaaay back and I still prepare variations of it to this day.

  2. Thanks Kristen! Wow, Moosewood. The bible back in it's day! Must discuss tempeh reuben (along with a million other things) when we chat. XO

  3. I, too, am very impressed with the rigor that Bill Clinton adheres to his new eating plan. And I am more than impressed that you are attempting some vegan dishes. And btw, that is a pretty funny observation about how quickly we go back to the tried and true when faced with a new paradigm.
    I always learn something new when I read your adventures in food a well as " midnight madness shopping ". (thank heavens Zappos has such a good return policy).
    Am I going to try to cook with tempeh? well, not right now but it sure is fun reading about it. Thanks for your ongoing campaign to get us out of our familiar food routines. ;D

  4. I know tempeh, I come from Indonesia and tempeh are authentic Indonesian food.

    But you have not tried the original flavor of the Indonesian tempeh, maybe it will be better than you make

  5. Your news presented here is very interesting to observe. Thank you and success always for you

    Pengobatan Alami Beri-Beri

  6. These recipes are easy, practical and tasty I want to try it at home and eaten with family
    Ketahui Fakta Tentang Penyakit Kista Ovarium

  7. The recipe is easy and I am so hungry, haha maybe later I'll try the recipe. Thank you my permission to share this yea
    Lakukan 3 Cara Ini Agar Sembuh Dari Kista

  8. To add my insight into the broader need much information should I dig, one of his articles, vidio also one of his pictures as I can see on this page, please be able to provide feedback to me.
    At the end of the comment word I say thank you.
    alat bantu sex pria
    obat kuat pria
    jamu kuat herbal

  9. Obat Penghancur Batu Ginjal Untuk Wanita Herbal, Ampuh Menghancurkan Batu Ginjal Tanpa Operasi dan Aman Tidak Menimbulkan Efek Samping.

  10. Life is not forever difficult, and vice versa. There will be a time. The important thing, remain optimistic

  11. The Falcons offense was a potent one on the way nfl jerseys to winning the NFC last season, but they didn’t do much with their tight ends.

    Jacob Tamme, Austin Hooper, custom jerseys store Levine Toilolo, Joshua elited jerseys Perkins and wholesale nfl jerseys D.J. Tialevea were targeted 83 cheap nfl jerseys times in the regular season, which is about as often as wide receiver custom nhl jerseys Mohamed Sanu was the target for passes. One member of that group has spent time game jerseys with quarterback Matt Ryan recently in hopes of taking on a bigger role.

    Ryan returned to Southern California for more NFL Finger Spinner work custom nfl jerseys with the trainers at 3DQB limited jerseys with jerseys store Hooper, a custom mlb jerseys third-round pick last year, along to run routes and develop custom jerseys a deeper custom nba jerseys relationship with Ryan.

  12. شركة رش مبيدات بالاحساء
    اتود الوصول لافضل عمليات التنظيف مع الحصول علي ضمان لاطول فترة خصومات وعروض رائعه لعمليات التنظيف يمكنك الاستمتاع بالخدمة عن طريق زيارة الرابط التالي

    شركة تنظيف فلل بالاحساء

    شركة تنظيف شقق بالدمام

  13. Thanks for the information you have provided, It is very helpful. Please improve again

    Obat Alami Batu Ginjal Tanpa Operasi
    Obat Herbal Pengering Luka Yang Alami

  14. Progressions in innovation have made life a great deal less demanding for every single one of us. This is valid for all parts of our lives, even in the region of our funds. Liquidating checks, for instance, is a considerable measure less demanding these days than it was previously.

  15. AvriqPrinter RepairPrinter InstalltionWifi trouble shooting
    Software InstalltionI have just found this website while searching over the internet, you have posted valuable information which i like reading.
    Virus removal

  16. Numpang share info of the health Obat Kanker Payudara and Obat Pengggumpalan di Otak thanks for permission

  17. This article is very useful, thank you for sharing. And allow me to share articles too, it's about health and treatment. God willing
    rairaka herbal

  18. For Latest updates of Bollywood, Hollywood and Tollywood Check this blog
    Shahrukh khan upcoming movies
    We are the best event organisers in delhi ncr
    Event organisers in delhi ncr
    social media marketing company in delhi
    Most of the people want graphic design in india to grow there product and brand
    Graphic design in delhi
    Best event management company in delhi ncr
    Webslogin is the best web designing company in india
    best web designing company in India
    Best wedding planning company in delhi ncr
    We are the best web designers in delhi ncr
    web designers in delhi

  19. The marinade seems like it's good.