We may have recently run a list praising Brooklyn’s very best bacon dishes (we’re talking bacon in a bowl with blue cheese), but the truth is, we have an even greater affinity for vegetables—so much so, we could have easily become vegetarian, if our job didn’t regularly require eating animal flesh with gusto. That being said, we fully expect our vegetables to behave pretty much like vegetables, and don’t much cotton to the concept of compressed soy products masquerading as meat.
It’s why we so appreciate Selamat Pagi—the Van Leeuwen crew’s perennially under-the-radar Greenpoint restaurant—largely overshadowed by their admirable achievements in the ice cream realm. Focused on Balinese cuisine, offerings are largely, naturally veggie-centric (save for that omnipresent smear of shrimp paste), while others incorporate actual protein as an accent, as in rice, herb and pickle-bolstered beef rendang.
So there’s no obvious need to bother with tempeh, which pops up in a cool salad of crispy shallots and long beans, or is provided as a topping for nasi goring, Indonesia’s national dish of liberally spiced fried rice. But highlighted in its own special box in the menu (and enthusiastically alluded to by servers) the bowl of mie goring tempeh practically demands notice—tossing tight, fried rectangles of the azuki bean and brown rice cakes (provided by local hero, Barry’s), with a tumble of rugged, toothsome, handmade noodles.
Actually invented in Java — Indonesia’s most populous island — it’s a pleasure to finally eat tempeh in the manner it was intended, i.e. not engaged in mimicry as burger or bacon. Especially when stirred into a sticky sauce of peanut butter and soy (which effectively emphasizes its profound earthiness and nuttiness), and offset by a lively mantle of fresh lime, crunchy carrots and sprouts.
Then again, considering our newfound appreciation for Barry’s, we might just be willing to finally give Brooklyn Commune’s principled TLT (tempeh, lettuce and tomato) a try.