Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh

It’s been a rough day. I went to bed late last night suffering from a lot of back pain, inflicted upon myself either from rigorously brushing the pool (which doesn’t make sense because I’ve been brushing it non-stop all “summer” thanks to the rotten weather-induced algae) or from kayaking (which also doesn’t make sense because after 3 minutes of rowing on my part my back was already starting to hurt and Mark took over all rowing). I woke up several hours before my usual hour, startled by a very loud bang followed by the sound of broken glass. For a split second, I thought it was Tigger, because every other time I’ve ever woken up to the sound of broken glass, Tigger was to blame. Alas, no Tigger, though if he were still here, he could break a glass a day for all I care. With much sleepiness and trepidation I slunk into the kitchen. One of the bottles of root beer I’d bottled on Friday night had exploded. All over my kitchen. Root beer and broken glass EVERYWHERE. I sighed and grabbed the sponge, thinking that, well, at least I’d be early for work for once in my life since I certainly wasn’t going back to bed. I started scrubbing, trying to do so without moving my shoulders, which by the way, is not very easy.

Half an hour later, with root beer still all over the place, I wandered out into the dining room, where I discovered that a bottle of Mark’s ink had also exploded, all over the hardwood floors. Now, I understand why the root beer exploded (though I left plenty of room in the bottle for the carbonation), but I have NO idea why the ink exploded. It’s really very strange. So then I cleaned that up as well, which was not fun and involved, of all things, a dough scraper.

Two hours later, I had cleaned the entire kitchen and everything in it and got all the ink off the dining room floor. I was sticky and blackened and gratefully hopped in the shower, no longer early for work. After showering I was starving and went into the kitchen to grab breakfast. I removed the orange juice and shook it….and as the cap wasn’t on tightly, orange juice went everywhere! All over my newly cleaned kitchen, all over my newly cleaned self. Arrgh! What a morning!

I managed to make it through the day without anything else exploding, but my back was still sore when I got home and I was dismayed the find the kitchen floor still very sticky. Fortunately for me, Mark offered to scrub it again and he did a good job. While he was doing so, I went to my laptop in search of dinner ideas. You’ll forgive me if tonight I wanted something very quick and easy. I googled “cabbage jalapeno tempeh”: three ingredients I have and want to use up. I was a bit surprised to find something that contained all three ingredients, but I did: Mark Bittmans’ Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which I actually own (but couldn’t immediately get to as Mark was still scrubbing). My friends, I was too exhausted to try to improve upon this dish, although I take most of the recipes in that book as nothing more than starting points.

Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh

8 oz tempeh, crumbled
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp ginger, minced or grated
1-2 jalapenos, minced
3 1/2 cups vegan broth or stock (any flavor)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar or 6 drops stevia
3 cups chopped cabbage
4 oz bean threads or thin pasta
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I used 2 cubes frozen cilantro from Trader Joes)
2 scallions, chopped

Prep all the ingredients. While I was mincing the jalapeno, it exploded and I got jalapeno juice in my eye. No lie. Today’s been an amazing day of explosions.

Bring some oil up to temperature in a Dutch oven or other pot, then add the crumbled tempeh and fry until golden.

Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno; saute for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar or stevia. Bring to a rapid boil.

Cook at a fairly decent boil for about ten minutes or until broth is somewhat reduced. Add cabbage and boil for another minute.

Add the bean threads, cilantro, and scallions …

… and stir until bean threads are soft.

Serve immediately.

This was okay; a filling meal in about 15 minutes, but I probably won’t be rushing to make it again, at least not without playing with the recipe a bit to make it my own. I usually only make my own tempeh on weekends I will be home on both Saturday and Sunday because I usually cook the soybeans around noon and I like to be sure I’ll be home 24 hours later to remove the tempeh from the incubator. It’s been several weeks since we’ve been home on both weekend days, including last weekend. So I picked up some store-bought tempeh. Since I started making my own, though, store-bought has seemed really bland and doesn’t even look right to me any more. So I suspect I’ve have liked this meal a lot better if I’d used my own tempeh.

In the meantime, I’ve had a long day, I’m sore, I’ve been reading 2666 for a week, which is a long time for me to be reading a book, even if it is 900 pages long, Smucky’s arriving on Wednesday and I’m having a party for him on Saturday, so what I want more than anything else this evening is to sit here, Brachtune purring on my lap, and read until I fall asleep. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. I will not be making myself a pot of tea because I’m pretty sure the kettle would explode and scald me with 3rd degree burns. I don’t think, however, I will need any help falling asleep tonight.


  1. Jes Said,

    July 6, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

    Oh man, what a crazy exploding day (and it wasn’t even the 4th of July…). ((hugs)) I hope tomorrow is much better (and explosion free)! The braised cabbage does look tasty though…

  2. Lou Said,

    July 7, 2009 @ 4:10 am

    Hi Renae, Lou here, your biggest Irish fan/stupid lurker who’s been waiting to comment until she had her own vegan food blog up and running – I give up, hello, I love your blog, the photos, the tutorials, the food, the fact that you, like me, like to try to do things from scratch, and the puddytat photos, obviously.

    I found your blog the night I decided to go vegan whilst looking up alternatives to soy milk and have been enjoying, (silently, for shame), ever since, you’ve been a huge help with inspiration and advice, so thank you.

    Anyway, I’m not usually a gusher, what I really wanted to say was that I’m amazed you actually had the energy to take photos for us that evening after everything that had happened! Fingers crossed you’ve had no explosions since – you’re sure you don’t have a poltergeist, right?

  3. kibbles Said,

    July 7, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

    Oh my god! Everything is exploding! That’s scary. The dinner looks delicious, however, and I happen to have those ingredients too! Thanks!

  4. Porky Said,

    July 7, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

    Hey there! Just wanted to let you know that I’m linking you now cause I love your posts. I look forward to reading more in the future!

  5. renae Said,

    July 8, 2009 @ 9:06 am

    Lou, Mark is pretty sure all the explosions were caused by our dearly departed cat Tigger in poltergeist form. He was a bit mischievous….

  6. Danielle Said,

    July 8, 2009 @ 10:46 am

    Does the post-sauté simmering leach out the bitterness in the tempeh the same way an initial simmer would?

  7. renae Said,

    July 8, 2009 @ 11:21 am

    Danielle, honestly, I don’t find tempeh bitter to begin with, so I can’t guarantee it, but I think between the sauté and the simmering, you’re definitely covered. It gets cooked a long time. If you were really worried about it, you could steam the tempeh before sautéing – I rarely bother if I’m going to be cooking it pretty well.

  8. Lou Said,

    July 8, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

    I’d say Mark has fairly hit the nail on the head so – it sounds like the kind of thing cats dream about doing after they die, a whole other level of nudging delicate things off shelves. 😉

  9. Josiane Said,

    July 11, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

    Wow, what a day! I’m impressed you got through it, and were even able to publish this post! I totally understand that you’d rather not make tea after all of that…
    Your timing is perfect with this recipe! I was really wondering what to do with the chinese cabbage we’ve got in our CSA basket, particularly because cabbage is still not on my gentleman friend’s list of favorite leafy greens… but this sounds like something that would work well for him. So thank you for taking the time to write this post at the end of such a day!

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