Tuesday, 21 October 2008

five spice tempeh

I love the taste of five-spice. One of the first things I made my mum teach me to cook was five-spice chicken, marinated for hours and fried in the wok and baked. I remember watching her so many times as I was growing up, the noise of the wok and the smell of the spice and it was actually the last thing I cooked involving meat.

I’ve put it out of my mind for years, unable to decide what could hold its shape and yet soak in the flavour of the spices. Potato wouldn’t take to the frying, and tofu would fall apart, and no other vegetable would have the right texture. I’m not a huge fan of tempeh, but in a wave of inspiration I decided to give it a go last week, and it went exactly the way that I felt it should, even though my five spice is a little old. The tempeh was spicy, and crisp, and that smoky, delicious flavour was just as I remembered it, and I made it again last night.

5-spice tempeh

five spice tempeh

1 pack tempeh
1 tablespoon 5-spice
4 tablespoon dark soy
1 tablespoon light soy if the mixture is looking a bit strong

You will need a gas burner, and a wok. You might get away with using a frying pan, but frying pan is a different style of frying and I take no responsibility for any lack of wok-hei or change in cookability that you may encounter.

Mix together the five spice and the dark soy, until the spice has dissolved. If it’s looking a bit too overwhelming, add a dash or two of light soy. Slice the tempeh into fingers about 15mm by 10cm, then coat in the marinade. There should be enough marinade to coat the tempeh, and still have a bit of liquid floating around the bottom of the container. Sit for at least an hour in the fridge.

Wok on the stove, burner up high. Put a little bit of peanut oil in a wok, no more than two tablespoons, and swirl around up the sides. Using chopsticks or tongs, place the tempeh first in the middle, where the oil should be starting to pool, and then up in the ring around the centre, where the flames hit the wok. Don’t do all of the tempeh at once, at least not if you’ve never used this technique before – perhaps do six or seven slices at one time. Turn each slice, occasionally but not constantly swirling the oil through the centre and up the ring (just when it looks like you need more oil up there), for about three or four minutes. Remove the tempeh to a tray, and continue wok frying until all the tempeh has been through the wok. Spread on oven tray, and bake on 180C for about fifteen minutes, turning halfway.

The wok crisps up the outsides, and the oven allows it to gently bake the flavour through. The oil left has this great crispy, spicy wok-hei kind of flavour, which last night I used to fry sliced mushrooms, something I will elaborate upon in another post.

Serve the tempeh any way you please, I like to serve it on a bed of bean shoots or cucumber, or just eat it straight from the oven.

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