Bowl of adobong tempeh sa gata or coconut-braised tempeh

Adobo Tempeh sa Gata (Tempeh Adobo in Coconut Milk)

Tempeh can be an acquired taste for a lot of Filipinos. In my case, the first time I tried it, I had to politely take it out of my mouth. But when I learned that it makes for a great meat alternative because it’s high in protein and low in fat, I decided to add it into my meals. I created this dish, adobong tempeh sa gata, to explore and get to know its flavor.

In the Bicol region where I grew up we have adobo sa gata (chicken adobo cooked in coconut milk). I imagined tempeh’s flavor profile would go well with the way adobo is cooked, making it more familiar. I added pineapple chunks to amp the nutritional profile and add a bit of fiber. (To be perfectly honest, I am not a massive fruit eater—except perhaps for bananas, I love them. So I thought, for people like myself, when eaten with rice, the dish becomes a complete meal—go, grow, and glow.)

Cooking with tempeh

Most, if not all, of the tempeh available in the Philippines is unpasteurized. This means it has not been heat treated to destroy the microorganisms and prevent further fermentation. As such, it is a living food. Unpasteurized tempeh can be cooked immediately (after thawing if frozen). In other countries such as the US, the law requires the pasteurization of tempeh, and @tempe_dude recommends steaming the pasteurized tempeh first before cooking with it to minimize the bitterness caused by pasteurization.  

This recipe of Adobong Tempeh sa Gata works really well with soybean tempeh and we sourced ours from @tempe_ dude (not sponsored). If you do get to try a tempeh bar made with different beans or grains, we would love to hear how it goes! The flavor will be different so adjust the marinade accordingly.

Ingredients

  • 1 block of tempeh (approx 350 grams), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (or more if you like garlic)
  • About 1/2 cup ripe pineapple, cut into 2 cm chunks 
  • 1 to 2 tbsp vinegar
  • Gata from 1 coconut (or 3/4 to 1 cup or half a can)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 to 2 dried bay leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
  • Salt to taste

Directions

1. Make the marinade by mixing the soy sauce and garlic. Soak the tempeh in the marinade for at least 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the marinated tempeh cubes. We want them a little bit crunchy on the outside. Push it to the side of the pan once the tempeh is cooked on all sides.

3. Scoop out the minced garlic from the marinade and fry in the same pan where you cooked the tempeh until golden.

4. Add in the pineapple chunks and let it cook for 2 minutes or so until the pineapple has caramelized.

5. Lower the heat. Add the vinegar. Then add the coconut milk, crushed peppercorns, and bay leaves.

6. Cook until coconut milk is slightly reduced and oil has separated from the milk. Reduce the heat at this point.

7. Season to taste and serve with rice.

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