Sarah Bourke’s first encounter with tempeh was a little uninspiring.

“A friend came to visit when we were living in a caravan in Myocum,” she recalls.

“She made what I think she called bean surprise, which was like baked beans with a few veges thrown in and I think she fried up some supermarket tempeh.”

“ I didn’t really like it.”

It wasn’t until several years later, when she found herself living in the same street as Lismore’s vegetarian restaurant 20,000 Cows, that her appreciation of
this traditional Indonesian food really developed.

The owner of the restaurant, Murray, made his tempeh from scratch:  “he’d fry it up with his yummy tahini sauce and a yummy salt and that’s when I really started getting it. It grew on me, ” Sarah said.

Murray, a close friend, taught Sarah how to make her own tempeh, and then seeing an opportunity to be part of the Mullumbimby Farmers Markets, she and partner Luc launched their own business, Byron Bay Tempeh.

Three years on, Sarah and Luc supply three local farmers markets, as well as stores on the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Local foodies rave about it (Janella Purcell calls it ‘the best tempeh on the planet’) and Sarah says there is a growing awareness of the health benefits of this fermented food.

“It’s probiotic, which means it’s living, and really good for the gut health,” Sarah said.

“There’s a really big movement in the science world now of the necessity of having a good gut for so many health reasons, even for mental health. So much is related to the bacteria in the gut.”

Because it’s probiotic, it’s easy to digest. Tempeh is also an excellent source of protein and is one of the highest known vegetarian sources of Vitamin B12.

Sarah makes two varieties of non-soy tempeh: organic chickpea and fava bean and Tasmanian wakame (edible seaweed).

She says the best way to prepare it is to fry it. It can then be added to a burger (Sarah’s favourite) , cut into strips and served with a dipping sauce like Davidson plum or sweet chilli, or added to a salad.

“The chickpea is really nice fried and cut into thin strips through an Asian salad with chilli and lime