Sunday, May 2, 2010

Indonesian Tempeh Curry

Tempeh is one of those ingredients which I like, but often neglect to think of when planning a meal. One contributing factor may be that our local stores only carry one brand, which is perfectly serviceable, but nothing out of the ordinary. Another is that when it does occur to me, I often go straight to the shockingly addictive and universally popular Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Vegan Brunch. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

However, my partner recently returned from a visit to Canada with some locally-produced tempeh that quite honestly blew my mind (well, the fermented-soybean-product-specific lobe of my mind, anyway). It's called Henry's Gourmet Tempeh, and it's better than any I've eaten outside of a restaurant. It has a very firm, dense texture, without the tendency to crumble that can make tempeh difficult to work with, or the incipient bitterness that often necessitates pre-steaming. I only had two 8 oz. packages - I'm still hoarding the other, and may actually have to order more online ( - so I wanted to make something worthy of its awesomeness, and this curry completely fits that description.

As is often the case here in Elizaveganland, what we have here is essentially a mash-up of several different recipes, adapted to suit our tastes, inclinations, and available ingredients. It came together very quickly, and was both easy and delicious, so I call that a success! Plain, steamed jasmine rice is all you need to make this meal complete, and like most curries, it improves as it sits; as good as it was the first night, the leftovers were even better. The sauce does thicken up a bit, so - assuming that you have leftovers - you might want to add a little extra coconut milk when you reheat.

Indonesian Tempeh Curry
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 tsp. hot chili oil
~ 8 oz. package tempeh, cut into cubes
~ 6 shallots, diced
~ 1 tbsp. garlic
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. brown sugar
~ 1 tsp. each: dried basil, curry powder
~ 1/2 tsp. dried lemongrass
~ 2-3 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1/2 lb. green beans, cut into 2" pieces
~ 1 large carrot, cut into 1" matchsticks
~ 1 red bell pepper, cut into large dice
~ 4 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
~ 1 15 oz. can (2 cups) coconut milk
~ 1-2 tsp. hot sauce (more to taste; I used Sriracha)
~ Bean sprouts
~ Fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
~ Chopped, roasted cashews or peanuts for garnish

~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat the oils and fry the tempeh over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain.
~ Add the shallots to the wok and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook a minute or two more, until the shallots are just beginning to brown.
~ Add the sugar, curry, lemongrass, and soy sauce. Stir to combine, then add the green beans, carrot, and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
~ Add the baby spinach and stir until just wilted. Pour in the coconut milk, add the fried tempeh and hot sauce, and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until hot and slightly thickened.
~ To serve, place some steamed rice on a plate, ladle the curry over it, and top with a handful of bean sprouts, some basil leaves, and a sprinkle of chopped nuts.


  1. yum! i love all the flavors in this tempeh curry! what curry powder do you use?

  2. I used Frontier Organic, which was what happened to be in our cupboard at the time. I usually mix stuff up myself, but this was done in the interest of speed and utility!