janet @ the taste space

Tamarind BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes

In Mains (Vegetarian) on January 11, 2011 at 6:17 AM

In this electronic age, word of mouth can spread fast. Online feedback is immortalized. While I like to consult reviews, too, I didn’t know authors like to gauge their own success through these reviews.  I was surprised (but I guess I shouldn’t have been) when I saw Dreena Burton, author of Eat Drink and Be Vegan, really upset by a recent review on amazon. The primary complaint was that her recipes were criticized for using too many unusual ingredients (tempeh, artichoke hearts, pine nuts,  lemongrass, agave nectar, etc).

I am so glad my blog doesn’t get judged as harshly – the blogging community is actually VERY supportive. Heck, we actively encourage our readers to try new and unusual ingredients that we have discovered ourselves. I certainly do not purport to be solely cooking from kitchen staples. When I went home over the holidays, I had to figure out what I could still cook in my parents’ kitchen without having to run to the grocery store too often. I know that my armamentarium of ingredients has ballooned since I’ve moved to Toronto and discovered ethnic grocery stores. My favourite ingredients right now include pomegranate molasses, bulgur, lentils du Puy, cardamom, tamarind, and tempeh. Personally, I love it when I find new recipes that use these unique ingredients!

I remember flipping through Veganomicon before I moved to Toronto and the recipes didn’t really appeal to me. I agree, all the new ingredients can be intimidating. However, when I returned to it recently, my curiosity was caught by many recipes. My favourites so far have been the chickpeas romesco and the tamarind lentils.

I recently bought Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a Veganomicon co-author. When I saw a recipe for tempeh and sweet potatoes marinaded in a tamarind-based barbecue sauce, I knew I had to try it first. I also had all the ingredients. 🙂

The recipe is also posted here and I modified it by decreasing the tempeh. Who wants to use one and half packages of tempeh for a recipe? The recipe didn’t mention it, but I used Terry’s tip in Viva Vegan to steam the tempeh with half a cup of water in the microwave. Apparently it removes its bitter taste. However, whenever Rob has prepared tempeh, I have not noticed a bitter taste.

I cut the tempeh into small triangles and used around 600 g of sweet potatoes with the same amount of marinade. I started making this dish in the morning, allowing everything to marinade until I threw it into the oven for an easy, late lunch.

I was skeptical the sauce would thicken but it was perfect right out of the oven. It was a smokey barbecue sauce with a strong tangy tamarind flavour. It worked well with the meaty, chewy tempeh and the sweet potatoes. My only complaint, and we’ve had this problem before with tempeh, is that it slurps up the marinade once cooled as leftovers. It still tasted fine for leftovers, but the sauciness was lost. Therefore, it was best the day it was prepared, but still conferred reasonable leftovers. Next time, I may throw in a leafy green like kale, as Susan did here.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Cinzia from Cindystar.

Tamarind BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced in 3/4 inch chunks (I chose to keep the peel!)
250g tempeh, cubed or in mini triangles
-consider adding in 4-8 cups of kale, spinach, chard, etc

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water (I used cornstarch)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate (if using tamarind pulp, dissolve in 2 tbsp in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain through a fine-mesh strainer)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
Cooking spray

1.Place the tempeh in a microwave-safe dish with half a cup of water. Cover it with a lid and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes. Drain any excess water.

2. Spray an 9×13 casserole pan with cooking spray. If using glass (Isa doesn’t recommend glass but I am not sure why – it was fine for me!), then line the bottom with parchment (or a silpat which is what I did) to prevent sticking.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients. Make sure to get the tamarind dissolved. Pour over the tempeh and sweet potatoes and use your hands to coat well. You can bake immediately or let marinate for at least an hour to get more flavor into the tempeh (I marinaded mine for at least 4 hours).

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400F. Cover with tinfoil and place in the oven for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and toss out the tin foil. Flip tempeh and sweet potatoes, making sure to scrape the bottom with a spatula in case anything is sticking. Bake for another half hour, flipping once. Sweet potatoes should be tender, but not mushy, and the sauce should be thickened and coating everything. Serve with rice.

Serves 4.

  1. That does look amazing.

    I like tempeh but it is not that easy to find, even in central London. Have you tried making your own? I have with varying results. I must have another go!

    • It is hard to find tempeh in Toronto as well. I have to make a trek to a health food store downtown to find it…. but I never knew you could make your own tempeh! I need to investigate!! 🙂

  2. Yeah, put in kale! Do you need help massaging it?

  3. Thats looks soo irresistible and yummy..

  4. Since when is tempeh a “weird” ingredient for a vegetarian? I mean, it’s not weird for me and I’m an omni! I love the sound of this meal. And though I don’t have all the ingredients on hand, I can certainly find all of them in the grocery store! i will definitely be making this.

    • I completely agree with you, Joanne. Vegans likely know all about tempeh and other assorted vegan-friendly protein sources. I am only a recent convert, though. 😉

  5. I saw Dreena’s note about that review and couldn’t believe it! Like you, I don’t think of those ingredients as unusual any more. 😉 Your tempeh sounds divine. What a great sauce!

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melissa Dion, DebbyBruck. DebbyBruck said: Tamarind BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes http://bit.ly/fuWhiw T @mgonyeo […]

  7. Love your idea to add in some kale. I tried tempeh once and did not like it at all… mind you I was the one cooking it and maybe I have no idea what I’m doing (I used a Vegan Table recipe). But we ended up picking all the tempeh out and replacing it with tofu. Maybe I need to try steaming it? Though I didn’t find it bitter hm.

  8. […] of the wrap, the loss of sauce around the tempeh is not detrimental to the dish (which had been our problem […]

  9. […] Glorious roasted golden beets. Next, steam your tempeh, then get it marinading. Tempeh has a bad leftover track-record, which is why I planned on making this salad fresh during the week. I left the tempeh […]

  10. If you’re ever near Perth/Ottawa, you should try Noble Bean – they make tempeh and supply quite a few places in the Ottawa-GTA corridor.


  11. […] Pad Thai Tamarind Lentils Martinique Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Eggplant and Pineapple Chickpeas and Chana dal Cooked Together in a Tamarind-Mint Sauce Tamarind BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes […]

  12. […] – Cool Slaw (recipe elsewhere) – Roasted Beet, Orange and Brown Rice Salad with an Orange Sesame Vinaigrette – Sushi Roll Edamame Collard Wrap with Green Onion-Miso Vinaigrette – Smoky Split Pea Soup (I preferred this soup) – Hottie Black Eyed Peas and Greens (recipe elsewhere) – Chickpea Piccata – Red Lentil and Root Veggie Dal – White Bean, Quinoa and Kale Stew with Fennel – Braised Cabbage with Chorizo Seitan Sausage – Forty Clove Chickpeas and Broccoli – Mango BBQ Beans – Smoky Tempeh and Chard Stew – Yam and Black Bean Stew with Orange and Cilantro – Lettuce Wraps with Mustard-Hoisin Tofu Salad (recipe elsewhere) – Grilled Portobello Burgers (recipe elsewhere, but I preferred this recipe) – Caribbean Curry Black-Eyed Peas with Plantains (recipe elsewhere) – Tamarind BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes […]

  13. Gosh, you can even get tempeh at Trader Joe’s these days. I know I’m lucky, but here in the Seattle area I can get tempeh from three different stores that are all within five miles of me. It does depend a lot what area of the country you live in, in some places you can’t get those ingredients. Not the fresh ones anyway (the shelf products you could get online). Your tamarind BBQ tempeh recipe looks great, and now that it’s fall sweet potatoes are starting to sound good again. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Hey Mary, You are lucky! I think tempeh is the hardest ingredient to find (second to vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast). At least the un-flavoured tempeh. I think I’ve seen the devoured tempeh bacon and such at the grocer. 😛

  14. Would this be worth making without the liquid smoke? I can’t find any.

  15. One of my favourite tempeh recipes are these itatlian tempeh nuggets, that I toss with spaghetti and broccoli, they are sooo flavourful!

  16. I have Appetite for Reduction as well, and I love this recipe! I’m visiting a friend and didn’t have my copy with me but wanted to make this, so I was very happy to find it on your blog! I made it tonight as a side dish, omitting the tempeh (although I do love tempeh) and replacing the tamarind with a quarter cup raisins. I know those are two of the highlights of the dish, but when cooking outside of my own kitchen, this’ll do! And this version is all comfort-food. When I make it with cranberries instead of raisins, it’s like Thanksgiving on a plate. So good!

    Thanks for posting!

  17. […] a great way to add another one of Isa’s excellent books to our 52 cookbooks list. The recipe is posted over on the taste space blog. We served it over brown rice with roasted cauliflower on the side and […]

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