What is tempeh?Tempeh is a compact, white, cake-form product, prepared from dehulled boiled soybeans through solid state fermentation with Rhizopus spp. This is the official definition of tempeh by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an intergovernmental body from the WHO that acts as a reference point for food safety and consumer protection. The Codex further specifies the composition. Tempeh shall consist of the following ingredients: soybeans and starter (mould of Rhizopus spp. mixed with cooked rice powder, rice bran powder and/or wheat bran powder). Tempeh shall not contain food additives or processing aids, except for acids to control acidity during soaking the beans. Mainly acetic acid (vinegar) or lactic acid is used to acidify the soybeans, making them less prone to bacterial spoilage. This acidification can also be achieved by a natural fermentation whereby lactic acid bacteria are allowed to grow in the soaking water. This natural acidification is the preferred method of Indonesian artisanal tempeh makers use but also some large modern tempeh factories use this method.
Organoleptic characteristics of tempeh
Fresh tempeh shall have the following organoleptic characteristics:
- Texture: Compact and not easily disintegrated when cutting with knife
- Colour: White colour from growth of mycellium of Rhizopus
- Flavour: Typical tempeh: nutty and mushroom-like
- Odour: Nutty and mushroom-like without ammonia smell
According to Codex definition, chickpea tempeh, black bean tempeh or other non-soy tempeh cannot be officially named "tempeh" because they are not made from soybeans. Non-soy tempeh is very popular in the USA where the dairy industry has been wagging a fierce war against soy products.