Manitoba

Winnipeg student uses local peas to create soy-free tempeh

She only just heard of it, but a Winnipeg culinary student is reinventing tempeh, a vegan protein source made of soybeans, to be totally soy-free.

'My life has been consumed by tempeh,' says Anna Borys, culinary arts student at Red River College

Split peas are a type of field pea grown for drying. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

She only just heard of it, but a Winnipeg culinary student is reinventing tempeh, a vegan protein source made of soybeans, to be totally soy-free.

Red River College student Anna Borys said she first heard of tempeh a few weeks ago, although the soybean cakes have been around for thousands of years.

"You can fry it, you deep fry it, you can do all sorts of cooking techniques with it," said Anna Borys, who studies culinary arts at Red River College.

"I only learned about it, really, in the last few weeks. And my life has been consumed by tempeh."

Traditional tempeh is made of soybeans stuck together using a mould similar to something you'd find on Camembert cheese, said Borys.

But soy is a common allergen, said Borys, and there's a growing appetite for soy-free options.

"Lucky for us, we live in Manitoba. We have peas," she said. "Thanks to the Manitoba pea producers, we can make tempeh with peas."

Working toward commercial production

Borys's tempeh replaces the soybeans with Manitoba-grown yellow peas. Instead of using mould grown on soybeans, she uses mould grown on rice, to keep it completely soy-free.

How's it taste?

"It's kind of that mushroomy, earthy, umami, for lack of a better term," said Borys. "It's a nice flavour. It's not that different [from traditional tempeh]. It has a slight pea taste, but I feel like most Manitobans don't mind the taste of peas."

The project is in its early stages, but Borys hopes to get the product to a place where it can be made commercially.

"We're trying to iron out kinks now," she said. "But I would say we're very well on our way."

The culinary arts student has no background in the kitchen, she said. But after 10 years working for her family's construction business, she decided to pursue her love of cooking.

"Honestly, it's been a dream," she said.

Borys presented the pea tempeh at Red River College's Applied Research and Innovation Day on Thursday.

With files from CBC Manitoba's Up To Speed

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