This vegan twist on a typically meaty recipe will satisfy everyone around the table with its abundance of fragrant lemongrass and spicy sriracha.
When my husband saw this on the counter, he mistook it for caramelized porky crumbles. Yes, they look alike, but these crumbles are vegan, with a citrusy and spicy edge. Tempeh isn’t a Viet ingredient, but I’ve used it in banh mi, pho, and here to mimic meat. When crumbled into small pieces in this recipe, tempeh absorbs the seasonings well and fries up nicely. Whether made from meat or tempeh, these sorts of crumbles are used the same way—to mix into and season rice, kind of like a condiment. Add a side of radish and carrot pickle for refreshing crunch and tang. The crumbles will keep, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days (though they never last long in my house) and are good scooped up with tortilla chips.
- ½ cup lemongrass from 2 large stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1½ tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped shallot
- 1 tablespoon sugar, rounded
- 1 tablespoon sriracha, plus more for serving
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 8 ounces tempeh, broken into thumbnail-size chunks
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, optional
- 2 green onions green part only, cut into rings
- Fine sea salt
- 1 small English or 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced (optional)
- In a small food processor, whirl the lemongrass to finely chop. Add the garlic and shallot and process until everything is minced, pausing to scrape down the sides as needed; set aside. (If you don’t have a small food processor, grate the lemongrass stalks and mince the garlic and shallot.) In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, sriracha, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and water. Set the seasoning liquid aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the canola oil. Add the lemongrass mixture and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until fragrant and no longer raw smelling. Add the tempeh and seasoning liquid, turn the heat to medium-high, and let the mixture bubble and fry for about 10 minutes. At first, press on the tempeh to break it into smaller pieces (ideally, separate into individual soybeans) to maximize flavor and crisping. When satisfied, leave the tempeh to sizzle, giving it an occasional stir and then spreading it out to cover the bottom of the pan so it cooks evenly.
- Toward the end of the 10 minutes, when some of the tempeh is golden brown, add the sesame seeds (if using) and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes longer to brown the tempeh further. The mixture will feel lighter under the weight of your spatula. When most of the tempeh is golden brown, remove from the heat, stir in the green onions, and let rest for 5 minutes to deepen in flavor. Taste and, if needed, add salt, a pinch at a time.
- Serve the tempeh warm or at room temperature, with the cucumber, if desired. If diners want more heat, pass additional sriracha.