TGRWT #14: Malt + Soy Sauce

I’ve been eyeing the plethora of blogging “food challenges” out there for some time, trying to figure out where to start. I really love the concept, and complete and utter nerdiness, of this one: “They Go Really Well Together” (TGRWT), which looks like it got started here. The idea is simple: some flavor combinations just taste awesome. Sure, we all know that chocolate and coffee taste great together — but have you ever tried combining bananas and mushrooms? The FoodPairing website has put together “food trees” showing some of these more unusual pairings. Apparently there’s some “science” behind the decision to pair blueberries with tomato paste and apricots with blue cheese, based on shared flavor characteristics. Or something.

Anyway, the food combo of the month for TGRWT was actually pretty tame: malt and soy sauce. I thought about the flavors for a bit before deciding where to go with the combination, but didn’t get much further than, “Well, barley malt tastes sort of sweet, and soy sauce is, uh, salty…hmm.” So I just mixed them together to see what it would taste like. The resulting sauce was really intense, thick and somewhat pungent. I’d forgotten just how rich barley malt tastes, and with the added soy sauce, I worried that this flavor combination would overpower any dish I put this sauce into. Throwing caution to the wind, because I’m crazy like that, I decided to just go with the richness, and added red wine to the sauce. Originally I was going to make some sort of braised tempeh dish, but the barley malt was so thick (and strong-tasting) that a reduced glaze worked a lot better — and even that was pushing it. Seriously potent stuff.

What with the tempeh and soy sauce and wine and all, I decided to add sauerkraut as a garnish to round out the fermentation theme. It turned out to be a perfect accompaniment!

Fermentation: A Celebration
(AKA Wine-Glazed Tempeh with Sauerkraut)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup barley malt
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
8 oz. tempeh, cut into 12 slices
1-2 cups sauerkraut (as desired)

Mix together the wine, barley malt, soy sauce, garlic, and red pepper, and set aside. Saute the onion in the olive oil over low heat for about 10 minutes, until light brown. (A deep, cast-iron skillet works best for this recipe.) Add the tempeh slices and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side. Pour in the sauce and gently stir, making sure the tempeh is completely coated. Simmer on low or medium low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a sticky glaze. Serve with sauerkraut.

TIP: The bottom of your cast iron pan will be covered with thick malted grossness after you’re done. When you’re ready to clean it, heat it up again and pour in some lemon juice. Let the lemon juice simmer, and use a spatula to spread it around. You’ll very quickly be able to scrape everything off the bottom of the pan. Then just wash as usual.

Glazed tempeh with greens, sauerkraut, and wild rice.

Glazed tempeh with greens, sauerkraut, and wild rice.

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