Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tempeh Dopiaza

This is my new BFF, Lord Ganesha: he's a Hindu deity who represents the power to remove obstacles and ensure success in human endeavors. Part human and part elephant, his hybridity signifies qualities useful and important to both: his large head symbolizes wisdom, understanding, and a discriminating intellect, his wide mouth represents the human desire to enjoy life in the world, and his big ears remind us that the wisest person is one with a great capacity to listen and to assimilate ideas. Among my gifts this past holiday was a splendid statue that - along with his accompanying incense - is a most welcome addition to our home, and as I head back for my second semester at Tufts (whose mascot just happens to be an elephant), it's nice to feel like Ganesha has my back.

I decided to feature him in this post because it's a new year, and this is my first curry of 2012! Ordinarily, we cook a lot of Indian food at our house, and after the barrage of traditional podginess that informs the whole Thanksgiving-Christmas juggernaut, it's nice to get back to popping up some mustard and cumin seeds. Dopiaza is a South Indian preparation meaning "(having) two onions," and it often features meat or prawns. Obviously that is never going to happen in my house or on my blog, but the dense, chewy texture of tempeh is particularly well-suited to stewy dishes like this, so when my partner returned from a trip to Toronto with several packages of the best commercial tempeh on the planet Earth (http://www.tempeh.ca/) it was time to have a go at it.

As is usually the case, I took a few traditional recipes and bent them to suit my personal will/taste/cupboard ingredients, and I also opted to chop the onions that form the sauce rather than puree them, for a bit more texture. But if you should prefer a smoother sauce, rock on: the time to do so is after adding the ginger and mint, and before the lemon juice. As with many curries, this gets better the longer it sits and the leftovers are even better than that first plateful, so it's fortunate that this makes a lot. We had it with Bihari green beans masala (recipe to follow) and saffron rice, and it made two ample dinners for 3-4 people and a couple of lunches besides. Yum.

Tempeh Dopiaza
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil, divided
~ 2 large onions
~ 1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, cayenne pepper
~ 1 tsp. each: cumin seeds, mustard seeds
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, fenugreek powder, ground coriander
~ 1/2 tsp. each: asafoetida, turmeric
~ 1 tbsp. sugar
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. dried mint
~ 1 tbsp. lemon juice
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine
~ 1/2 cup water (more as needed)
~ 1 8 oz. package tempeh, cubed

~ Chop one of the onions into thin crescents. In a skillet, add 1 tbsp. of the canola oil and fry the onions for a minute or two over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, the cayenne, 1/2 tsp. of salt, and continue cooking about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
~ Cut the second onion into small dice. In the same skillet, heat the remaining tbsp. of canola oil over medium flame and add the cumin and mustard seeds; cook for about a minute, until they just begin to pop (be careful - don't shoot your eye out!).
~ Add the diced onions, the fenugreek, coriander, asafoetida, turmeric, sugar, and the remaining salt. Cook over medium heat with occasional stirring until the onions are very soft (about 10-15 minutes).
~ Stir in the ginger and the mint; cook for another minute or two.
~ Add the lemon juice, 1/2 cup water, the margarine, and the cubed tempeh.
~ Mix well to coat, cover the pan, and continue cooking for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and browns a bit.
~ Add the reserved fried onion and bell pepper and mix throughly. Taste for seasoning and cook another 5 minutes.
~ Serve hot over rice and/or with naan bread.


  1. Oh my goodness! This sounds wonderful.

  2. "Om Gam Ganapataye namaha" was my mantra last year. Ganesh is my BFF too.

    Also this recipe looks interesting and complex with all of those different flavor combinations. Thanks for sharing.