Taste the umami flavors of Taiwan with this vegan version of the classic one-bowl Lu Rou Fan (tender-braised pork belly), made with braised tempeh and shiitake.
When you are vegan or vegetarian you should definitely explore Taiwan. The food markets are amazing, and there are a lot of vegetarian and vegan options. Especially the local salad buffets where you can choose from many different tofu and tempeh dishes.
What is tempeh?
Tempeh is kind of a cookie made of soybeans which is loaded with fiber, vitamins, and proteins. Although it’s less popular than its cousin tofu, it has more texture and absorbs flavors way more easily. To make tempeh, the soybeans are first cooked and fermented, then packed into a cake shaped tin to create this firm texture.
Tempeh is a real powerhouse, high in fiber and contains probiotics, magnesium, B vitamins, phosphorus, and manganese which can benefit a healthy sleep! If you’re looking for a protein-packed meal tempeh is a better choice than tofu.
In larger supermarkets you can find tempeh in the produce section with other vegan and vegetarian substitute foods. Here in Lisbon we buy our tempeh at GoNatural where you can find it in the freezer. We buy all our Asian ingredients like in this recipe the spicy bean sauce and the rice wine in the Asian food markets around Martim Moniz.
What does tempeh taste like?
Tempeh has a strong nutty flavor and it easily absorbs all the flavor of ingredients you add to it. It has more of a bite than tofu and is very chewy making it a popular choice for many dishes like chilis, tacos and stews. Tempeh can have a bitter aftertaste, which is why you should always soak it in boiled water before using it.
Lu Rou Fan (滷肉飯)
Lu Rou Fan is a traditional Taiwanese dish and popular as a comfort food. It’s made of braised pork belly in a sweet and savory sauce served on a bowl of rice. Inspired by a recipe from Chez Jorge, we made this vegan version of Lu Rou Fan and it absolutely tastes amazing. Like in the original recipe we cut the tempeh and shiitake mushrooms into small pieces. Then braise all together in a spicy bean sauce with shallots, garlic, ginger and a whole star anise for about 15-20 minutes to create a sweet and savory sauce that’s bursting with umami flavor.
The anise combined with the spicy bean sauce creates the Taiwanese flavor, that makes this dish so special. But if you’re not a big fan of anise you could leave it out, it will still taste amazing.
Best part is, if you prepare the tempeh like explained it will only take you 30 minutes to create this beautiful vegan meal. Enjoy!
Taiwanese Braised Tempeh & Shiitake | Vegan
- 250 grams tempeh
- 250 grams shiitake mushrooms
- 3 tsp spicy bean sauce Ma Po Sauce ( Lee Kum Kee, Asian food groceries stores)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 cm fresh ginger minced
- 1 shallot chopped
- 2 tsp chili flakes
- 1 whole star anis
- 2 bay leafs
- 6 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 cooking rice wine Lao Heng He (Asian food groceries stores)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 spring onion or chives
- First bring a pan with water to a boil. Once boiled at the block of tempeh in the water. Take from the heat and leave it for about 10 minutes. This is to rid its bitter aftertaste, drain the tempeh, to let the water out and let it cool down a bit.
- In the meantime chop the shiitake mushrooms very fine and chop the shallot and the spring onion.
- Tear apart the tempeh with your hands or with two forks so there will be crumbles that are similar to the texture of minced pork.
- Use a large pan, like a wok or a pot and heat up 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium heat. Add the spicy bean sauce (paste) and fry until fragrant , about 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger, chili flakes, and shallots. Keep stirring for 2-3 minutes, then add the minced tempeh and chopped mushrooms. Give it a good stir and add the star-anise and bay leaf. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until lightly brown. Deglaze with soy sauce, rice wine, and brown sugar. Cover it and let it braise for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare rice, steamed or boiled.
- Before serving don't forget to take the bay leafs and the star anise out. Serve on top of a bowl of rice and garnish with the chopped spring onion or/and chives.