We announced recently that we have begun making our own tempeh for those who want to try and support us in Bangkok. Since tempeh is so new here and many places around the world, we wanted to make sure some of the common questions you may ask about the soy product are answered. One of those is, “Is there a way to tell if my tempeh is still good?”
There are a few factors you should know about to be able to evaluate good tempeh — no matter whether you’re evaluating the freshness before you buy in the store, or after the tempeh has been sitting on your refrigerator shelf.
Look at the list below and keep each of these components in mind so that you can help have the best chances of getting great quality products from good sources.
When you buy your tempeh you should be able to look at it and have an idea of the freshness. The beans in the tempeh should be packed around a firm layer of white mold (called mycelium). As this layer reaches peak, some discoloration may occur where you see some black or gray spots. If the tempeh continues to mature, the mold will become a more yellow color. This is normal and still edible unless the tempeh is wet or consumed by mold of another color.
2) Aroma (Smell)
“Why does my tempeh smell bad?”
How do you judge a fermented product which can already be strong smelling by using your nose? Your tempeh should smell nutty, fermented and earthy, but not overly pungent. If the tempeh can be smelled from a distance, odds are it has likely gone bad. A smell of rot or noticeably strong notes of acetone, alcohol, or ammonium mean you need to dispose of your tempeh. These smells arise as other type of bacteria begin to rapidly grow on your tempeh. Preventing this means keeping your tempeh refrigerated or frozen, and dry, until ready to use.
Your tempeh is made of soybeans enshrined by white mycelium. If properly fermented, this layer of edible mold should grow evenly between the beans. When choosing your tempeh be sure the mold has grown completely without any cracks or areas among the beans where the mold has not grown.
Low Moisture Content (Dryness)
Your block of tempeh should be dry, never slimy or damp. Storing the tempeh with too much moisture can encourage other types of bacteria to grow, making your tempeh go bad more quickly. Tempeh can be frozen safely, but be aware that if not properly defrosted (this can be safely done in the refrigerator), moisture and condensation can start to form on the outside of your tempeh.
When possible buy organic tempeh. The soybeans are easier to soak when making the tempeh, and result in softer and more porous tempeh overall. Since the majority of soybeans are mass produced GMO crops, these can be harder to find, but worth the search. Farmers who do grow soybeans without damaging food and environments with dangerous chemicals also need our support.
Also, look for vendors using natural packaging to ferment their tempeh instead of plastic. The most common material used is banana leaf, which unlike plastic, naturally allows air to circulate, promoting the growth of the mycelium. The result is beautiful tempeh, naturally fermented that doesn’t contribute to environmental degradation.
Tempeh is a great source of plant based protein for everyone. Let’s spread awareness about the need to create diets that are more inclusive or plant centric and environmentally responsible. Courageous Kitchen is doing our part to educate and feed people in need in Bangkok, and your support makes a difference.