Tempea takes a new spin on fresh tempeh

by | Nov 21, 2018 | Food + Drink

Ariela Badenas and Andrew Chen were attending BCIT’s Food Technology program and were tasked to come up with a new food product using Canadian Pulse for the Mission Impulseible food competition.  It was three days before the competition when Chen changed the game by bringing a favourite food from his home country of Indonesia to the lab – tempeh. 

“We’d never tried anything like it,” said Badenas. “We decided to throw away everything from the last two months and the decision paid off.”

Tempeh is traditionally made with fermented soy beans, but Badenas and Chen put their own spin on it by using chickpeas and lentils and calling it Tempea. They took home top prize, and the confidence to give Tempea a real shot. 

Now, they’ve release two different tempeh – the chickpea-lentil and a traditional soy bean – and are showing up on menus and in grocery stores around Vancouver. 

Through their research Badenas and Chen couldn’t find tempeh in authentic tempeh that Indonesians have been making for centuries. They wanted to make their tempeh as authentic as possible, but that would mean leaving it unpasteurized.

It is this commitment to authenticity that actually set them back from bringing Tempea to market.

The inspection process was rigorous and Tempea had to go through many layers of inspection, including working closely with the BC Centre for Disease Control.


“We were like, ‘why has this escalated to the Centre of Disease Control?’ This product has existed for centuries,” said Badenas. “They were just really unfamiliar and wanted to get as much information as they could.” Badenas and Chen did eventually get approved, but they aren’t the only ones facing challenges in getting past food inspectors. “Tempeh is definitely becoming more popular and we get emails from people from other countries like Australia and England asking us how we got unpasteurized tempeh past food inspectors,” said Badenas.
The main concern, said Badenas, is that they are worried about salmonella contamination. The fermentation culture is made with a freeze dried rice powder and if it’s not cultivated properly it can cause problems, but, if the temperature and humidity is regulated properly, there should be no spoilage. “I wish I could open up an institute that focuses on fermentation that will satisfy all food inspectors and do the studies to prove it that it is a safe product,” said Badenas.
She may not be able to open an institute, but Badenas is helping raise the profile of local fermented foods and is one of the organizers behind Ferment Fest, which had its second show in September. “There are so many good reasons to eat fermented foods, they have probiotics that promote good gut health, but even from a practical perspective the food lasts a long time, which means you’re helping reduce food waste by fermenting it,” said Badenas. Badenas is still focusing on spreading the tempeh gospel on the ground, educating sceptics and newcomers on its virtues. “I’m really passionate about re-educating people on what tempeh should be, which is not necessarily what’s been available,” said Badenas. Tempea is currently exclusively selling in Vancouver and North Vancouver retailers. Check out their Small Batch Member page to find a retailer near you. 

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Excellent work. Well done you. Bravo.

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