Tempeh Rendang (Low FODMAP, gluten-free)

Rendang has been in the news quite a bit. While Malay food lovers worldwide were going “Alamak!” over this, it made me crave for some spicy, coconut-y protein goodness! Since April is IBS Awareness Month, I decided to make a low FODMAP version of this local favourite.

FODMAP stands for:
Fermentable i.e. Foods that are digested by intestinal bacteria – producing gas that causes bloating
Oligosaccharides i.e. Starchyose, Raffinose e.g. sources from legumes, beans, lentils, certain vegetables. Acts as soluble fiber.
Disaccharides i.e. sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (malt sugar)
Monosaccharides i.e. simplest form of carbohydrate such as glucose, fructose (fruit sugar)
Polyols e.g. sugar alcohol such as xylitol, sorbitol; low calorie/no calorie sweetener which are poorly digested.

Here’s a list of high FODMAP foods that doctors suggest IBS patients to avoid.

Malay food is usually not vegan or FODMAP-friendly because of the high usage of shrimp paste (belacan), meats, garlic, shallots and onions. Nevertheless, Malay cuisine also uses plenty of plant-based proteins like tempeh, beancurd skin and tofu. Moreover a large amount of flavour comes from other spices which are low FODMAP.

Low FODMAP spices and herbs. Note that tamarind is low FODMAP when less than 1 tbsp.

If you do not have IBS, feel free to use onion, garlic, shallots in replacement of leek and asafoetida. For those who cannot take all alliums, I have yet to come up with an allium-free recipe but intend to do so. Stay tuned!


Recipe: Low FODMAP tempeh rendang
(Serves 2)

For the rempah (paste):
– 1/2 tsp asafoetida
– Green part from 1 leek
– 2.5 cm galangal
– 2.5 cm ginger
– 3 lemongrass, white part only, chopped very finely
– 3-10 pcs dried red chilli, soaked and deseeded
– 1 tsp salt

Pound in a pestle and mortar or process in food processor to a paste. Add water if too dry. Set aside.

For the dish:
– 200g tempeh, cut into cubes
– 1.5 tbsp oil
– 1 stick cinnamon
– 2-3 cloves
– 1 star anise
– 2-3 cardamom pods
– 3 lemongrass stalks, green parts, bruised to release fragrance
– 6 kaffir lime leaves, scrunched up to release fragrance
– 1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted till slightly browned
– 1 tbsp tamarind paste (any more will be considered high FODMAP)
– 1/2 cup coconut milk (if you can tolerate more, use 1 cup for best flavour.)
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup water

Garnish (optional):
– 1 stalk coriander
– Juice from 1 lime

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Fry rempah till fragrant. Add cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom pods, lemongrass and fry till fragrant. Add tempeh and stir till mixed with the spices and paste. Add salt, coconut milk and water, cover and simmer over low-medium heat till liquid is almost reduced. Taste and season with lime juice and more salt if preferred. Garnish and serve hot with rice. Leftovers can be kept in fridge up to 3 days.

Notes:
– According to Monash University  , ½ cup coconut milk and 1 tbsp tamarind paste is considered high FODMAP if eaten at one sitting. This recipe serves 2 people as a side dish. So if you’re observing the diet, avoid eating the whole serving at one go, no matter how tempting it may be!
– If you wish to save time, make the paste in bulk and refrigerate. Mine kept well for 3 weeks and counting.
– If you wish to save even more time, some spice paste brands in NTUC carries ready-made rendang paste, but they all have onion/garlic/shallots.

Rendang is usually made with palm sugar to give it the signature brown colour, but those with IBS may be sensitive to processed sugar. Hence, I omitted it here, but feel free to add 1 – 2 tbsp of palm sugar if you prefer!

If made correctly, the tempeh cubes should be juicy inside.

 

Although Low FODMAP vegan diet may be restrictive, you can definitely make it exciting and flavourful with the uses of spices and herbs. Spices and herbs are usually Low FODMAP. They are basically made up indigestible insoluble fiber. We usually do not consume them directly or in large amounts.

Alliums such as onions and garlic are often used as a herb for many dishes to give a base flavour. However, onions and garlic are typically considered high FODMAP as it contain an oligosaccharide called fructan, which can be gas-producing. In this recipe, the green part of the leek, an allium, is used instead. The white part of the leek is considered high FODMAP while the green one is low FODMAP. So you can still enjoy alliums but only selected parts are safe. Asafoetida is a great onion substitute with a similar flavour.

A person eating a plant-based diet often gets their protein from legumes like beans and lentils. However in the case of a vegan low FODMAP diet, it can be trickier as legumes are usually high FODMAP. Thankfully, there are still low FODMAP legumes available in the form of tempeh. Although it is made up of soy (a legume), it is low FODMAP as it is made by fermentation. The process of soaking, fermenting and cooking significantly reduces the amount of oligosaccharides present in soybeans. The beneficial bacteria produces enzymes to help to eliminate or reduce the amount of anti-nutrients and oligosaccharides found in soybeans. This makes tempeh’s nutritional profile even more superior because we are able to absorb more nutrients.

Tempeh can be bought here at mid-range supermarkets and wet markets.

A vegan low FODMAP diet can be challenging, but recipes like this can make the whole process easier and tastier! Take restrictions as possibilities to explore new ingredients and recipes. Wish everyone happy tastebuds and guts!

Nutritional info from Krystle Koh.

Best served with a bowl of steaming hot rice!
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