In many parts of the world, plant proteins are dietary staples, as meat is prohibitively expensive. Tofu, tempeh, seitan and beans are common protein sources that are delicious enough to earn their own spotlight on a menu.
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian mainstay that’s made by fermenting soybeans. The result is a soybean “cake” that imparts a slightly nutty flavor and a firm texture that melds with a variety of ingredients.
Tofu is made by curdling and pressing “milk” from soybeans. An extremely versatile product, tofu ranges from soft and silky to firm and crumbly.
Seitan is derived from wheat gluten and sports a chewy texture that’s a bit like a fresh cheese curd or even cooked chicken breast.
Legumes are a primary source of calories and protein for people around the world. From peanuts, soybeans and lentils to kidney, adzuki and green beans, the varieties are plentiful, inexpensive and good for your heart.
A selection of favorite vegetarian dishes from local Madison, WI restaurants give these plant proteins the spotlight they deserve.
Sambal Goreng Tempeh, Bandung Indonesian Restaurant
Bandung’s house-made tempeh is fried until crisp and served in a candle nut sauce with a hint of sweetness, green beans, lemongrass and potatoes over a bed of fluffy rice.
Tofu Scramble, Mickey’s Tavern
Tofu seasoned with a hint of soy and creamy peanut butter marries perfectly with sautéed onions, spinach, red pepper and spices. This dish, available only on the weekend, is served with fries and toast and is sure to win over any tofu skeptic. Wash it down with Mickey’s famous bloody Mary!
Bibimbap with Tofu, Graze
The flavors, textures and colors of this one-bowl meal satisfy all the senses. Chunks of marinated, firm tofu are piled on top of a crispy-fried square of rice. Various pickled vegetables add crunch and bursts of flavor with every bite. It’s topped with a sunny-side-up egg, kimchi and a delicious spicy sauce with perfect heat.
Blackened Seitan, Liliana’s
Medallions of house-made seitan are blackened and grilled before being topped with a chimichurri and piquillo pepper chutney. A bed of Cajun-roasted lyonnaise potatoes with leek and shallot green beans provide a perfect accompaniment to the seitan.
Khoresh e Ghemeh Bademjan, Layla’s Persian Food
Layla’s offers a hearty stew of yellow split peas and eggplant slow-cooked in a tomato sauce mixed with warm spices and topped with lightly fried potatoes. The fluffy basmati rice is the perfect foundation for the stew, which pairs well with a fresh side salad.
Originally published in Madison Magazine June 2016.