The first time I ever had Lapsang Souchong tea, I wondered why the heck I was drinking it. I’d read plenty about it while doing some research for a freelance writing job and was intrigued by the idea of a “smoked” tea. I was disappointed to find that it tasted terrible, like getting a mouthful of smoke when filling a wood-burning furnace. And yet I couldn’t bring myself to write it off entirely.
I didn’t know what good tempeh was until I stumbled across this little West Stockbridge, MA company at the farmer’s market in winter of 2013. They don’t make tempeh just from soy; they experiment with all different kinds of beans and grains, and they don’t pasteurize it. Alas, after the 2013 market they didn’t come back to my area, and I didn’t see them again until I went to Valley VegFest in March. There they were at a table with their tempeh and the best (raw) sauerkraut I’ve ever had, another thing that I’d fallen in love with and had been missing. Needless to say, I spent far too much money at that particular table, and every single penny was worth it.
I’m glad that I was able to get such high-quality ingredients for this recipe because I wanted to showcase the flavors of the mushrooms and tempeh–and do something with the Lapsang Souchong that actually tasted good. And what better use for a smoky tea than as a marinade?
It’s not exactly a new idea, but it was the first thing that came to mind as I was sipping that initial horrible cup of the stuff. That’s how I wound up with a sampler pack of it hanging around in my kitchen, ready to brew up a double-strength batch to marinate some of Hosta Hill’s soy-quinoa tempeh and get to cooking.
The result was a mis-mosh of things that started with the idea of marinated tempeh and sauteed mushrooms, then expanded to include a side dish of potatoes and greens with some onions and garlic. The latter is a light riff on the Tasty Potatoes and Kale from The China Study Cookbook and can be made with any greens that you have on hand. It’s a fun side to make this time of year, actually, since potatoes and greens happen to be hanging around together at farmer’s markets.
The recipe may look intimidating at first, but don’t let the long prep time freak you out–most of it is spent marinating the tempeh. Take that time to chop and steam the potatoes and cut up the onions, garlic and greens to go with them. Get that mixture going while you slice up the mushrooms. Then brown the tempeh, cook down the mushrooms and everything should time out just right!
I didn’t get quite the strong smoke flavor that I was going for with the tempeh, but I found that the mushrooms took up a lot of the taste during cooking. Spooning extra marinade into the pan helped, and it might be even better if you tossed the mushrooms in the marinating bowl with the tempeh for a while. I might have to try that out next time!
As written, the two dishes are meant to be served together, but obviously you could make either one on its own and create a whole new meal with it. The potatoes and greens would make a good breakfast or brunch dish with some tofu scramble, and the mushrooms and tempeh could just as easily be eaten over seasoned rice. Or noodles also cooked in Lapsang Souchong, which really is better as an ingredient than a drink.
Although I have to admit, I had another small cup of the stuff after that first fateful taste. It was much less overpowering than when I tried it at the tea shop, and I found that I didn’t mind it as much as I thought. Perhaps the first cup was just a bit too strong for my tastes.
Which, by the way, is what you want to go for in this recipe. Make the tea nice and strong, marinate the tempeh as long as you can and don’t skimp on putting the leftovers in the pan when you’re cooking. It’s a taste worth trying at least once.
Or again and again, if you decide you like it.
- 1½ cups Lapsang Souchong tea, brewed double strength
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 8 oz tempeh, cut into cubes
- 8-12 ounces mixed mushrooms (white, button, cremini, shiitake, oyster, etc.)
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1½ cups onions, sliced
- 1½lbs. potatoes, scrubbed and diced
- 1 large bunch (about 12 ounces) kale or collards, chopped
- lemon juice and black pepper to taste
- Place the tea and the crushed garlic in a shallow bowl. Add the tempeh cubes and stir to coat. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Place a steamer basket in a large pot with about 1 inch of water in the bottom. Add the potatoes, cover, and steam over high heat for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Splash a little water in the pan if the anything starts sticking. Add the steamed potatoes and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the outsides begin to get brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Avoid using water at this point–it will make the potatoes soggy. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes more. Cover and keep warm.
- Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh, reserving the marinade, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add a little marinade now and then to keep it from sticking. Add the mushrooms to the pan and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes more, adding more marinade as desired.
- To serve, plate the mushrooms and tempeh next to the potatoes and greens.
Have you tried Lapsang Souchong as a drink or cooked with it? What do you think?