This isn’t meant to be a food blog but it sure is looking like it these days. No matter what country she’s in, a girl’s gotta eat!
About a month ago I went to the Foreign Food Market in Itaewon and bought some galangal root, tempeh, kaffir lime leaves, Thai curry, and lemongrass and I’ve been able to experiment a bit with these flavors. I know about them from the dish Pad Prik King, which is a popular stir-fried Thai dish with green beans and chicken or tofu that I really enjoy ordering (and made for the first time recently!). The ingredients are also common to Indonesian and Vietnamese dishes.
Tempeh, as I’ve explained in my entries from last summer about Bali, is an Indonesian fermented soybean cake. It’s not squishy or watery like tofu and it’s got a “meaty” quality to it similar to a mushroom. Tempeh has a lot of texture and you can see the sliced soybeans still in it. The partially cooked beans are held together with a white/black fungi, which is what lends it to mushroom-esque comparison. I love the stuff and prefer it 9 times out of 10 to tofu. I’m not a vegetarian any longer, but was for many years and so, many of my favorite foods are still meat-free.
Galangal root has an orange/pink color to it, but looks pretty similar to ginger otherwise. The taste is much stronger though–it’s more peppery and aromatic than ginger. The root itself is very tough to cut, so you can often buy it pre-sliced in the frozen section of an international goods store. Some might argue with me, but I think you could use it as a substitute for ginger and vice versa in some dishes.
So tonight I was hankering after some tempeh and thought to make a sandwich with it. It turned out like this:
I only had some rice bread on hand, but I think a chewier, sturdier bread (similar to what you might eat a Vietnamese banh mi on) would work better. Also, I liked the cucumber a lot, but would have loved some sprouts too. (cut your cucumber lengthwise for strips that stay situated on your bread) Finally, I used cheese (not necessary, I just had it on hand and wanted to use it up) and a little smear of mayo to cut the acidity, but this sandwich would’ve been the perfect vehicle for a squirt of Sriracha sauce. Next time.
4 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3-4 slices galangal root OR ginger, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
Assemble the marinade in a flat dish, like a baking pan, add sliced tempeh (cut in half lengthwise, then into strips the width of your thumb) and add cold water. You want to make sure the tempeh is covered. Let sit in the refrigerator for one hour.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pan. Once oil is heated, add tempeh strips, making sure as many as possible are laying flat in the pan. You want these to get a little crispy on each side! Cook for 5 minutes or so on medium heat, then turn over the strips. You can’t really over or undercook the tempeh–just test it with your finger to make sure it’s warm. You might not want to eat the whole bits of galangal or garlic unless you’ve sliced them very thinly.
You don’t have to use these for a sandwich. I’ve got leftovers (you should be able to serve 2-3 people with a block of tempeh) and I plan on using them in a salad. I think a great salad would be sliced cabbage or spinach with bell peppers, cucumber, carrot, and radish. You could even heat the cabbage for 1-2 minutes in a splash of the marinade.
Maybe I’ll give a little update tomorrow on how I utilized the rest of the marinated tempeh!