Tempeh or translated into soy bean cake is a very common food in Indonesia. It is considered a “cheap” source of protein. It wasn’t popular at all (outside of Indonesia) until recently. I’ve actually found some tempeh here in Minnesota.
In Indonesia, tempeh is traditionally made by fermentation process that involved soy beans and a “starter” (they call it a tempeh starter) in a low acidity environment. The end result is soy beans being knitted together by this whitish mat of mycelium. They are then wrapped in banana leaves and ready to be sold or consumed.
This is the tempeh I found from Whole Food Markets:
Popular way of preparing tempeh dishes in Indonesia includes deep-frying them and eat them as snacks or cooked with sambal (like this recipe below), cooked into curry, and saute with other vegetables and sambal. Common usage of tempeh in North America that I’ve seen is using tempeh as patties in burger. A great source of protein for those who seeks vegetarian option.
My personal favorite of tempeh dishes is this sambal goreng tempeh / fried tempeh with spicy sauce. The tempeh is deep-fried and then cooked with a spicy, sweet, and slightly tangy sauce. This goes very well as side dish with nasi lemak /coconut milk rice and lontong sayur /rice cake with vegetables and meat. If you ask me, just a plain steamed white rice will do with this sambal goreng tempeh 🙂
- 8 oz of tempeh / soy bean cake (cut into long and narrow strips)
- 4 shallots (peeled and thinly sliced)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled and finely minced)
- ½ tsp belacan / shrimp paste
- 1 tsp of galangal powder
- 2 oz of gula jawa/ Indonesian palm sugar (finely chopped)
- 1 Tbsp of tamarind paste + ¼ cup of water
- 1-2 Tbsp of red chili paste (more if you like more heat)
- Salt to taste
- Oil for deep-frying and sauteing
- Preheat oil enough to deep-fried the sliced tempeh. Deep fry until they are golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper towel and set aside
- In a medium-size skillet or wok, preheat about 2 Tbsp of oil. Add in the chili, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, galangal powder and saute until really fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add in the tamarind paste, water and palm sugar. Stir to mix and until the palm sugar melted and started to reduce and caramelized. Add in the fried tempeh and stir to mix everything. Have a taste and season with salt as needed. It should be spicy, sweet, and slightly tangy