Teriyaki tempeh salad

I’ll start with the recipe. Your job is to spot what I did wrong! There are two things in particular. I’ll tell you what at the end.

Yield

1 large salad

Ingredients

  • half a package of tempeh, about 160g
  • teriyaki marinade
    • 1 tbsp sake
    • 4 tbsp soy sauce
    • 4 tbsp mirin
    • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
    • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • handful of baby salad greens
  • small amount of carrot greens
  • 1 carrot
  • 7 grape tomatoes
  • 3-6 broccoli florets
  • flat leaf parsley
  • dressing of your choice

Directions

First and foremost, preheat the oven to 350° (if you would like to bake it. You can also pan fry).

Next, start with the tempeh in a dish not much larger than the tempeh at the base, but deep enough to hold a bit of liquid.

Picture of tempeh cake

Add in the ingredients for the marinade and coat the tempeh. Turn it over a couple times for good measure. Cut it into strips or chunks if you feel like it.

Picture of sake, soy sauce, mirin and oyster sauce

The not-so-usual suspects. Mirin is what gives teriyaki that sweetness that takes the edge off of all the soy sauce. I added in a bit of oyster sauce for fun. Please note, mirin looks exactly like rice vinegar but they are NOT THE SAME.

Picture of tempeh in teriyaki marinade

Let the tempeh sit like that for about 20 minutes, turning it halfway through. Now at this point you can either pan dry it as mentioned in a bit of oil (sesame would be lovely, vegetable or canola will do just fine) or bake it as per the original plan. If baking, set it up on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet and sprinkle with sesame seeds, like so:

Picture of tempeh strips on baking sheet with sesame seeds

I baked mine for 10 minutes and broiled it for 2 because I was impatient– it was 9 pm because my bread baking did not go as smoothly as planned (although it did turn out alright in the end). I think it could have used 15 minutes and 5 under the broiler though.

While the tempeh is baking, prepare the salad.

Picture of salad ingredients: baby greens, carrot greens, parsley, grape tomatoes, broccoli, carrot

Make sure to channel Emeril or whichever celebrity chef you idolize (for me it’s Alton Brown). Use those knife skills! Okay, do you don’t actually need a knife for anything here except the tomatoes. For the carrot, I just peeled it and then shaved it with a vegetable peeler to make pretty-looking strips. (I hate carrot chunks in salad. They just fall to the bottom.)

Picture of plated salad and parsley before tempeh is added.

When the tempeh is done, put it all together! Serve with a dressing of your choice. I threw together a dressing with a tablespoon of leftover tempeh marinade (since it’s not meat, we can reuse it!), 2 tbsp of rice vinegar and 1 tbsp of orange juice, with a dash of dried ginger.

Picture of finished teriyaki tempeh salad

The mistake and the lesson

Did you catch what I did wrong? What could possibly be the mistake in this simple little salad?

If you said parsley and carrot greens, you are right.

Parsley and carrot greens are similar in that they are rather, how should I say, ascorbic? (Parsley has a good amount of vitamin C, actually, though not as much as vitamin K) They have a bitter, bright, leafy taste to them. This goes great with stuff like Italian food, which is full of creamy, smooth, fatty flavors. When you add parsley and carrot greens to an Asian salad–particularly to one with home-made teriyaki, which has way less sugar and corn syrup than what you get in the bag from Costco or from PF Changs–you get an absolute explosion of acid and bitter in your mouth.

And you know if I say it’s too acidic, it’s too acidic, because I love my vinegars.

So, lesson learned: keep those carrot greens and parsley far away from Asian dishes!

What could I have substituted to achieve a nicer balance? I’d probably leave out the herb entirely, or replace it with cilantro, and evict the carrot greens in favor of snow peas or even those ridiculous chow mein noodles that you can get in a huge tin at Winco. I could even have done cooked rice noodles (although in that case, I’d naturally want to replace the teriyaki with delicious, delicious peanut sauce).

Sources

I adapted the teriyaki marinade (read: added one ingredient) from this delightful recipe. You can use the same marinade for chicken (as I did a week or two ago to great success). However, I recommend you double the marinade for the same amount of chicken she uses (300g, or about 2 medium-sized deboned thighs) so the chicken is actually covered while it is marinating.

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