All signs point to tempeh reaching trendy, superfood status.
It’s been gathering momentum for a while now and we’re calling it: 2020 will be the year the humble tempeh catapults into the limelight. What started out as “the poor man’s meat” centuries ago and then relegated into the “niche” ingredients category is now fast being accepted into the mainstream.
And why not? After all, tempeh has much to offer. It’s high in protein and acts as a canvas to absorb the flavours it’s cooked with.
In the Singapore context, tempeh has been lifted out of Nasi Padang and Indonesian eateries and adopted into the realm of healthy eating. From grain bowls to vegan eateries, it is fast being embraced as a whole-food, high protein alternative.
Here are five reasons why 2020 will be the year tempeh truly takes off.
The growing culture of fermentation
Mankind has a long relationship with fermented foods and it’s everywhere whether we know it or not. While kombucha has taken off in a massive way and is at the forefront of that narrative today, other everyday ingredients that we consume involve fermentation in its production. Liqueur? Absolutely. That chocolate chip muffin you had a few days ago? Chocolate production requires fermentation. Your Sunday brunch of avocado toast? That bread you loved is fermented too.
But this recent uptick in fermentation hobbyists reflects one thing: that people are becoming comfortable manipulating microflora in their own homes. It’s a return to the old ways, and a departure from an era of consuming mass produced food. This is by no means insignificant. That communities are becoming their own food producers can and will have an effect on the food industry.
As small batch food producers ourselves, we love it. Here at Tempeh Culture, we’re all for empowerment. Our tempeh making kit was designed to teach the community to make their own plant-based proteins without needing to sit through an expensive workshop. Unlike many other fermented foods that are currently popular, tempeh is high in protein, and can be used as a daily staple to nourish our meals.
See also: The easiest tempeh recipe, ever
Teach yourself to make tempeh, and you’ll teach yourself more than a hobby, but a life skill to nourish yourself and your family without relying on massive food companies. It’s good for you, and great for the planet.
Awareness of plant-based eating
More and more plant-based alternatives are becoming accessible with every passing day. Many restaurants have always been conscious of catering to vegetarian and vegan diners, but this awareness of sustainability and how animal agriculture has wrecked havoc on the planet’s eco-system is spurring new action.
In the US alone, the Plant-Based Food Association released a report in July 2019 noting that sales of plant-based foods have increased by 11 percent.
And while manufactured products that resemble and even behave like meat are all the rage now, this sector also accounts for more people taking up whole-food plant-based diets.
Tempeh as a natural product falls squarely in this category. After all, what could signify its whole-food status more than the fact that people in ancient times could easily make it at home?
More tempeh makers around the world
From Portland to Alsace and Bangkok to Sydney, there are now more tempeh makers spread out across the world than ever. Many, like us, are small makers, but others are large operations fuelled by investors looking for a slice of the plant-based action.
Big or small, all are chipping in to promote tempeh as a quality source of protein and point to a larger trend of it being eaten across the world.
Re-examination of our heritage
Meanwhile back in Southeast Asia, organisations like ourselves as well as Indonesia’s Tempe Movement are re-examining the roots of tempeh, while promoting the culture of tempeh-making and eating.
In the Singapore context, that comes in tandem with our search for heritage. As colonial Singapore reached its 200th year, we can’t help but look back with some level of poignancy at the history we’ve left behind.
Much of our food culture is slow dancing into the past and in that spirit we researched deep into the origins of tempeh in Singapore. After all, it’s widely available in wet markets and suburban supermarkets. Our search brought us to a book on Kampung Tempe, which you can read all about here. To further drive the conversation of Singapore’s tempeh and migrant Javanese history, we launched The Heritage Series tempeh as a limited edition.
The growth in tempeh makers and demand for tempeh means nothing without resources pointing out how to cook it. While there are plenty of recipes in the Malay and Indonesian culinary landscape (most of which are in Bahasa), 2019 has seen a growth in its implementation across many cuisines.
This year saw an explosion of tempeh recipes all over Instagram and Youtube. We have a small and growing collection of tempeh recipes that anyone can access for free. But for a beautiful browsing experience, check out the newly released book, ‘Tempted by Tempeh’ written by Dr Susianto Tseng, Dr George Jacobs and Pauline Menezes. In it, 30 recipes are fleshed out covering starters, main dishes and desserts.