Despite their outward appearance these tempeh balls are unlike meatballs, or at least ones I’ve had. They hold together stiffly, but bite in and the texture is soft and glutinous (a sign of the steamed rice flour- but please dont’ use glutinous rice flour). It’s also worth noting that my tempeh-doubting partner downed these for lunch last week, and without complaint. Like with any stir-fries with a good sauce, I’m an avid fan of simple sides: steamed jasmine rice and some extra soy sauce.
If you really really dislike tempeh, this tangy-sweet stir fry sauce works with other mock meats (I’ve used it with “chicken” before) or your favourite veggies.
Play around with the spices that go into the tempeh balls and adjust to suit your tastes. Tempeh has a strong flavour, one I savour (ha! yes, I did that on purpose), but I realise lots of people need a wallop of something stronger to affect its flavour. The final product of this recipe still has a tempeh undertone that’s only mildly flavoured by its sibling ingredients, so consider if you’ll be more satisfied by chucking in an extra bit of ginger, another clove of garlic. Yes? No? Start with the minimum and build up from there, whatever you do.
Steamed Tempeh Balls in Sticky Tamarind Sauce
Makes 18-20 balls, enough to serve two
- First thing’s first: get the tempeh balls steaming. Cut the tempeh into thin slices and steam it for 10 or 15 minutes in a basket or bamboo steamer. This will help remove some bitterness and also prep the tempeh to receive and soak up the rest of the ingredients. Top up the water and keep the steamer steaming.
- Add the tempeh and the rest of the tempeh ball ingredients, except the rice flour, into a food processor and pulse until you have a smooth paste (a few unblended beans won’t put a spanner in the works).
- Knead the rice flour into the dough until smooth, and roll lumps in between your palms to form approximate one inch balls. Like in other areas of life size isn’t of the utmost importance, but here the recipe should yield 18-20 tempeh spheres.
- If you have tiered bamboo steamers (the cheap ones that stack as many as your ceiling is high), grab three. Line them either with greased plates or greaseproof paper and arrange the tempeh balls at 1-2 inch intervals. Stack and steam for 30 minutes. A metal steamer basket works as well, of course.
- Now’s the time to make the sauce! Pound the shallot, garlic, soy sauce, tamarind and water, sweetener, ginger, and lime juice together in a pestle and mortar until you achieve a nice smooth paste. Add the cornflour and stir it all up. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, a coffee mill is good substitute. Otherwise just mince the garlic and shallot as finely as possible and stir together with the soy sauce, tamarind mixture, sweetener, and ginger in a small bowl.
- Once the tempeh balls finish steaming, leave them to cool for at least ten minutes (they’ll be a little sticky at first, but will harden as their temperature decreases).
- Heat the groundnut oil in your wok to medium high and stir fry the tempeh balls until the outsides are lightly browned, for around 2 minutes. A little bit of burn is okay, so don’t fret. Add the broccoli and onion wedges, continuing to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add half of the spring onion along with the sauce, tossing quickly for 1-2 minutes in the wok to combine and finish cooking everything.
- Dish up with the rest of the spring onion clumped on top as a garnish.