Last week, despairing about the lack of stores that carry staples of a vegetarian diet like tofu, tempeh, and seitan (not to mention good varieties of rice, edamame, curry paste, etc.), I Googled around. Turns out Switzerland doesn’t just regulate chocolate content in chocolate chips, they regulate tofu and tempeh as well. Here’s Article 24 of the Ordonnance du DFI sur les céréales, les légumineuses, les protéines végétales et leurs dérivés (in German, Italian):
Art. 24 Tofu et tempeh1
1 Le tofu est un produit, égoutté ou non, fabriqué à partir de fèves de soja et d’eau, avec addition d’un agent coagulant.
2 Peuvent être utilisés les agents coagulants répertoriés dans l’annexe.
4 Le tempeh est un produit à base de fèves de soja, fermentées au moyen de cultures appropriées (p. ex. Rhizopus oligosporus). Il peut être fabriqué à partir de céréales.
So there’s a law about what constitutes tofu and tempeh. Great! But where could we find it? (Our regular supermarket, Migros, carries one kind of tofu that’s not great.)
So the serendipitous discovery: while wandering near our train station, on the way back from a second-hand furniture store inexplicably closed every Monday (virtually all stores are closed here on Sunday, so closing on Monday just doesn’t seem fair) we found a pan-Asian grocery store (plus some Middle East flavor, but without any hummus). It carried multiple, local kinds of tofu. Lots of varieties of rice. Really weird vegetables. Lots of types of curry pastes, including one without fish oil. Chili oil, soy sauce, sesame oil. But we didn’t see any tempeh.
So I found the clerk, who had been very helpful and excited in explaining the various rices to us (maybe Jackie understood him, but all I got out of his explanation was that each and every one was a “special” variety), and asked him for tempeh. “Oh, tempeh!” he exclaimed and ran off to the meats freezer and began rooting around the bottom of it. After 10 seconds he pulled out what looked like a kilo of tempeh. Overly pleased with himself, and with us for wanting tempeh, he wanted to know where we’d heard of it. Had we tried it at the restaurant next door? “Yes, yes,” we answered, rather than try to explain—well, what exactly would we have explained? I guess we could have told him it was part of our culture?
Discoveries like this have helped us appreciate what Renens, our village (which is working class and immigrant heavy) has to offer. Once we go back and get the address, we’ll be sure to add it to HappyCow (which really needs updating for Switzerland).
Yesterday, walking through the open air market at Plaine de Plainpalais (English translation) in Geneva, I found seitan. Also, falafel balls and hummus. All in small quantities, and pretty overpriced.