New Business Ideas No. 13: That "superfood" Tempeh
This is the thirteenth of a series of low capital micro-business ideas
Tempeh is a traditional fermented soybean cake that has been produced and consumed in Java, Indonesia for the last 2,000 years. Along with tofu and salted fish, not forgetting the sambal, tempeh is still very much one of the food staples of the country - consumed during almost every meal.
Tempeh is basically a high protein, high calcium and iron, low fat, no cholesterol, no sodium bean cake that is fibrous, and easily digestible. Importantly tempeh is also high in manganese, an essential element that promotes healthy bones, regulates sugar levels, aids in digestion, and has wonderful anti-oxidant properties.
Tempeh is also widely available in health food and organic shops around the developed world because of these important health aspects. Tempeh is one of the truly great meat substitutes around today.
Over the last few years the wide number of possible applications in food preparation have been discovered and extended over not just the Indonesian cuisine, but over the whole range of world cuisine, making tempeh a truly international food. Tempeh can be used anywhere where meat or poultry is used. It can be used in pastas, salads, in sandwiches, wraps, as burger patties, as hot dogs, as lasagna, on pizza, as a sandwich filling, in tacos, and almost any other food you can imagine. Tempeh can be sliced, grated, cubed, shaped, and stir fried, baked, grilled, or even steamed. Tempeh can also be dried into a crispy snack food, made to taste with the right ingredients and spices.
Tempeh is not difficult to prepare, but the process due to the need to ferment the beans takes around 24 hours. Although tempeh is traditionally made from soy beans, any bean like barley or garbanzo beans can be used. The beans are best cracked so a culture Rhizopus oligosorus can properly ferment the beans. A little tinge of vinegar will adjust the pH so fermentation will proceed quickly.
Over the time of a day a mat of white mycelia will form, binding the beans together. On its own, tempeh has a bland earthy and somewhat mushroomy taste. The secret is the marinate that you use to flavor the tempeh. Honey could make the tempeh sweet, lemon sharp, or teriyaki to give it that Japanese flavor. Alternately pizza spices could be added, curry powder, and cumin to give it that Turkish flavor. Coriander or rosemary will give tempeh completely different connotations. What you do to it, is up to your own imagination and taste preferences.
Tempeh can totally transformed into the bases and major feature of many foods. And this is where the entrepreneurship comes in.
Firstly, if you have your own sandwich stall, cafe, or coffee shop, you can use tempeh as your secret ingredient in sandwiches, as burgers, in salads, or in pastas. Tempeh has that unique texture and taste that you give it, and can become a trademark feature of your cafe's culinary style. This may help you get that little edge over your competitors.
Secondly you may wish to promote tempeh as a health food and develop a range of products that suit local tastes. This should give you a unique range of foods that others don't have. With the right local promotion and distribution you can develop some form of 'healthy' branding that portrays the great value of your products to consumers. There are many good case studies that you can explore on the internet.
Finally you could specialize in producing food products from tempeh and supplying them as 'raw' food ingredients to cafes, and coffee shops around your area. This may take some education to those who aren't aware about the specialness of tempeh, but the author can assure you, with a good, product, and good service, you may soon have a little manufacturing business making and distributing tempeh burger patties, sandwich fills, lasagnas, tacos, wraps, and the like.
I invite you to explore the possibilities of tempeh and hope you can find some value in this food for your purposes.
Tempeh is still one of the undiscovered superfoods of this world, just waiting to take pride of place in some of the world's most exclusive kitchens. So why not you get into tempeh first.
Watch this food.
Originally published in Emigem Magazine 5th March 2014
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