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Tempeh ‘Crab’ Cakes

December 20, 2011

I was wrong, a good Tempeh recipe isn’t hard to find–this one is also a favorite–and these ‘crab’ cakes are one of the most popular things I’ve made (especially among nonvegans). Adapted from the always fabulous Post Punk Kitchen they’re also perfect for Hanukkah (after all it’s not about the potatoes, it’s about the oil and these definitely meet that requirement). I was hesitant to try and make these at first because of my disdain for “patties” and my apprehension about the veganaise, but I’m thankful that I gave it a go. Two things to keep in mind: No matter what anyone tells you, you should only use Panko. Other breadcrumbs are crap. Go Panko or go home. Secondly, and not as important, but I like to add nori because, in my mind, it gives it a fishy flavor, but you should feel free to do without it. This recipe works best when you prepare everything the night before–letting it sit in the fridge overnight and then fry the following day. Often vegan “patties” like this will fall apart, but if you let it sit overnight it’s more likely to stay whole. [If you’re looking for more traditional fare, check out my latke recipe from last year.]

Tempeph ‘Crab’ Cakes

2 packages (each 8 oz.) tempeh (I actually really like Trader Joe’s tempeh, it’s cheap and really easy to use, but when I’m feeling fancy I splurge on Lightlife)
2 cup water
2 tbs shoyu
2 tbs olive oil
1 bay leaf

6 tbs Vegenaisse (these days I’m partial to Earth Balance, but that might just be because it was on sale at Whole Foods)
2 tbs dijon mustard
2 tbs harissa (or another mild hot sauce)
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
salt and peper
3 cups Panko breadcrumbs, plus about another cup for dredging
1 nori sheet, crumbled (optional, but suggested!)

At least 1/2 cup oil for frying (I use olive oil, but safflower oil is probably smarter)

Sauce
1/2 cup Vegenaise
2 tbs dijon mustard
2 tbs harissa

First off, we’re going to steam the tempeh so it’s easier to use. I had never tried this before, but it’s excellent advice and helps get rid of some of the bitterness (and dryness) that turn people off of tempeh. Crumple the tempeh into a medium pot. Add the water, soy sauce, oive oil, and bay leaf. The liquid won’t cover the tempeh, but that’s fine. Cover and bring to a boil, then let simmer for around 15 minutes or until almost all the water has evaporated

Transfer the tempeh to a medium bowl to cool. Remove bay leaf and mash/mix the tempeh. Stir occasionally, but let sit for at least 20 minutes and tempeh is room temperature.

Stir in the veganaise, harissa, mustard, vinegar, ginger, salt, and pepper. Mix for a minute then add in the Panko. Mix for another minute then crumble in the nori if you’re using it.

Ideally you should refrigerate the mixture overnight, but if you don’t have that luxury, make sure it gets at least 2 hours.

Set up your breading station by pouring the remaining Panko in a pan or plate. Scoop out about 1/4 or a cup of the mixture and make into a “cake.” Lightly press into the Panko. The “cake” won’t be coated with Panko, rather it will be lightly covered.

Heat at least 1/4 cup of the oil in a pan. Add up to four “cakes” (make sure there is enough room to fry) and fry for 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Flip the “cakes” and fry for another 3 minutes of until lightly browned.

Like all fried food, best to let it rest on some paper towels.

The sauce is simple enough, just mix the veganaise, mustard, and harissa together before serving–and enjoy! These taste best when eaten immediately, but I’ll often serve them the following day heated up.

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