Here goes our very first fermented food that is soy-free tempeh made of dehulled chickpea as we just found out this can be an alternative protein food as well!
It has been weeks since our actual production of chickpea tempeh but it is better late than never, isn't it?
Indonesia's traditional fermented food
Tempeh is originated in Java, Indonesia from a thousand years ago in 1800 without training in microbiology nor chemistry that developed this exceptional fermented food. Tempeh is a protein-rich food that is generally made from soybean and fermented for at least 24 hours at room temperature. The fermentation brings favorable nutritional changes such as starch breakdown into lactic acid that has health benefits for us humans.
However, until today, people have experimented with creating non-soybean ones that are called soy-free tempeh. Soy-free tempeh is a better alternative to those who are allergic to soy or have their own preferences. Common soy-free tempeh can be made of chickpea (garbanzo beans), red (adzuki) bean, black bean, lentils, or even edamame – your choice!
Scrolling down, we will show our creation of soy-free tempeh made from chickpea wrapped in banana leaf to evolve better taste and reduce any single-use plastic!
How It Began: Ingredients, Equipment, and One, Two Steps
We had previously made soybean tempeh back in college years as we have no problem in eating soy – we picked chickpea as the main actor to get a whole new experience. Even if chickpea has less protein than soybean, it can be a great source of alternative protein in the form of tempeh. To wrap the tempeh, we used banana leaves as one of the alternative wraps. Here is why:
the leaves can be composted since they are biodegradable
no holes needed for the tempeh to circulate because the leaves are porous
they do not contain chemicals..!
and also, the leaves can give a delicious smell and enhance the flavor of the tempeh.
You might have read these a lot but let me try to explain our own ingredients with each role in the process and you can click each ingredient to know which stores we got them (Indonesia-based stores only):
• Vinegar: we use an apple cider one
Providing a slightly acidic environment that favors the mold to grow.
Rhizopus molds produce enzyme phytase that breaks down phytic acid. Phytic acid is often
considered as an anti-nutrient that binds minerals in our digestive tract.
Also, these are the stuff we used during the process yet these might be useful or simply optional for you. Find and take based on what you need!
• Large bowls for soaking and mixing
• Spoons for mixing and stacking
• Pot for boiling
• Tray or any kind of surface to place your tempeh
• Tempeh wrapper: banana leaves and wooden toothpicks
One, Two Steps
Every other tempeh fermenter should have written the exact step-by-step for making tempeh. But it seems real nice to share it, too, since we might have experienced it differently at some points.
First thing first, you need to decide which commodity for your tempeh and calculate them according to your necessity! Good enough is better than a lot =) so we used 500 grams of chickpea to create 750 grams to 1 kilogram of tempeh as the end product. As the main actor, we will say chickpeas a lot in the lower paragraphs. If you use the other commodity, you may change it to your actor of the bean!
It all started from soaking the chickpeas overnight as we did it for 12 hours. You can lengthen the soaking time as preferred, the more time you soak the softer your chickpeas will be. Soaking aims to soften the chickpeas so that they will be dehulled easily and reduce the anti-nutrient compounds. But according to research by Gadjah Mada University (1), 21 to 22 hours might be the ideal soaking time to yield a maximum weight of tempeh. After soaked, there are two options you can take either you dehull the chickpeas first or boil them right away. Again, this is based on your preference yet we did dehull the chickpeas for at least 1.5 hours! Therapeutic yet sore enough.
If you choose to dehull it first, once finished, boil the chickpeas for at least 30 minutes to 60 minutes but make sure your chickpeas are soft, not mushy. Cool them down for a while before going to the next step that should be mixing the boiled, dehulled chickpeas with 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 grams of tempeh starter. Stir them up then you are ready to stack those chickpeas in your preferred wrapper. Using banana leaves made us being patient to fold them and prick the wooden toothpicks to put together the top and the bottom of the leaf. Or you can try to double fold them to avoid any births of holes or tears of the leaf!
After wrapping and folding, there goes the critical step yet the fun part – fermentation. We switched places several times from putting the tempeh inside the oven with the lights on yet we thought it would be wasteful of electricity, in the kitchen table, and finally.. we decided to place the tempeh in the desk in the studying room where we have this table lamp and we could easily watch and control the tempeh while being productive. Although the smell was all over the room, we were getting more excited instead of being uncomfortable with it! Oh, for your information, we used the table lamp to speed up a little the fermentation process to give more heat to the tempeh and covered the tempeh with breathable towel to avoid direct sunlight, remain the heat of your fermentation and protect your tempeh from unwanted airborne bacteria.
The trickiest part would be the length of the fermentation as we did it for 45 hours long until we realized that it might be too long as the environment was warm enough resulting in a little strong acidic smell on the tempeh. We would ferment the tempeh for less than 36 hours by seeing the temperature changes as seen below. So one of our tips will be to take a look at the fermentation's duration!
Safe and Fried
During the fermentation, we monitored the temperature and time as we can see in the picture above. The highest temperature was on the 24th hour of fermentation while we thought it should've been the best time to fry the tempeh already. For the information, the 45-hour-fermented chickpea tempeh was slightly damp which is also indicated by the temperature drop. But among some unexpected things during this journey, we never know if we don't try, right?
After 45 hours of fermentation, we sliced the tempeh and fried the with a hint of salt to enhance the flavor without disguising the original taste of the chickpea itself. To make it crystal clear, we did the sensory test compared with the soybean tempeh.
Some things in mind for a better experience are:
To ease the mold growth, you can use a smaller size of beans or split them up
You can skip the dehulling process based on your preference
Control the temperature and time during the fermentation – these matter a lot!
One last thing, if we should pick one between chickpea and soybean tempeh: chickpea for the win! Much softer than soybean makes it more suitable to substitute your meat. Yum!
You can make your own desired tempeh at home – easy steps and way cheaper!
See you on the next chapter ;-)
a newbie fermenter.
(1): Wijaya A, Suryantohadi A. 2005. Optimization of The Boiling and Soaking Times of Tempeh With The Use Of Fuzzy Logic Method. Agritech. 25(4)