If you tend to lean vegan or vegetarian chances are you’ve heard of tempeh before. I actually just learned about it when I was last in Indonesia! For those like me before I learned what this thing is, spicy Thai fried tempeh is a great entry dish for this ingredient, and one that can impress carnivores and herbivores alike.
What Is Tempeh?
Tempeh is an Indonesian soybean cake that is in my opinion a more rustic version of tofu. Instead of using silky bean puree, tempeh uses the whole soybean and an edible fungus to create a cake or patty. High quality tempeh will be completely white on the outside, but as I had to make mine at home and I was impatient I decided to cook this recipe using “young” tempeh.
The first time I worked with tempeh was in a cooking class in Indonesia and I was surprised by how much I liked it. I made an Indonesian sweet sour tempeh and this recipe is a bit similar…although it uses some distinctly Thai ingredients.
How To Make Thai Style Fried Tempeh
Take your 500 gram block of tempeh and cut it into strips with a knife. I try to aim for a size around that of a thick french fry, about 5-6 cm long. Before you start cutting you can start heating up a pan of oil. Tradition would say you should use peanut oil, but I decided to go with sunflower oil for this recipe. It’s totally up to you.
Add the tempeh strips to the oil and fry until they are golden brown. This takes around 8-10 minutes, but could be less depending on the size of your strips. When done, remove from the oil, salt them, and let drain on a paper towel.
Next it is time to make the sauce. Thinly slice three cloves of garlic and chop a dry birds eye chili. You can remove the seeds if you want to reduce the heat a bit, up to you. You’ll also need a teaspoon of lemongrass puree. This is best done in a mortar and pestle, but you can also (sometimes) buy pre-packaged lemongrass puree in the Asian section of your market.
In a pan add a bit of coconut oil and begin to fry the garlic on medium low heat. Once the garlic begins to brown (but not burn) add the chili and lemongrass.
After mixing everything turn the heat to medium and add in a couple tablespoons of your preferred Sriracha brand. Here I also like to add a tbsp of confectioners sugar to cut a bit of the spice, as well as a teaspoon of fish sauce (leave this out if you want to keep the dish vegan).
When the mixture begins to simmer turn off the heat and add in the strips of tempeh that have been resting on the paper towel. The residual heat should heat up the tempeh as they have lost some of their heat.
Give everything a good toss until all the fried tempeh strips are completely coated in the sauce. Voila, you’re done and can now enjoy a delicious vegan meal that doesn’t try to imitate meat!
Spicy Thai Fried Tempeh
- 500 grams Tempeh Cut into strips. This is usually just one block, but can vary depending on if it is homemade or by the producer.
- 2 tbsp Coconut Oil can add another tbsp if desired to increase sauce amount
- 1 Bird's Eye Chili dried and chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic thinly sliced
- 1 tsp Lemongrass Puree
- 2 tbsp Sriracha
- 1 tsp Fish Sauce optional (will make the dish no longer vegan)
- 1 tbsp Confectioner's Sugar optional
- Salt to taste
- Oil for frying. I recommend either peanut or sunflower.
- Add oil to a deep pan and bring to a high temperature. Add in the tempeh strips and let fry for 8-10 minutes. While this is happening you can prepare the rest of the ingredients for the sauce.
- When the tempeh is done, remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle over some salt.
- In a pan on medium low heat add the coconut oil and the thinly sliced garlic. When it is just golden add in the chopped bird's eye chili and the lemongrass puree and give everything a stir. Bring heat up to medium.
- Mix in the sriracha and sugar and let cook for a minute. Turn off the heat. If you are not vegan or don't care about keeping it vegan, you can add the fish sauce now and stir it in.
- Reintroduce the fried tempeh to the sauce and give everything a good mix so all the tempeh is coated. Enjoy!