Tahu dan Tempe Bacem (Braised Spiced Tofu and Tempeh)-Tofu and Tempeh are braised in aromatic spices and herbs and then pan-fried for a healthier version.
The first time I learned of Tahu dan Tempe Bacem was when I lived in Jakarta for a short 1 year. Almost every day I had these for dinner 🙂 They were quickly becoming my favorite snacks. Tahu dan tempe bacem are originated from Central Java. The tofu and tempe are braised in coconut water and spices like coriander seeds, shallots, galangal, bay leaves, and palm sugar and then deep-fried. I didn’t use coconut water in this recipe, but trust me, they still turn out delicious.
I like the smell and taste of coriander seeds or we called it as ketumbar in Indonesian language. I think that’s what makes this tahu dan tempe bacem special to me. The taste and smell profile of ketumbar is completely different with coriander leaves/cilantro leaves if you are wondering. Coriander seeds are widely used in Indonesian kitchen. I hate grinding up spices too, so you can find the powder version, I have no problem using them versus the fresh ingredients. I updated this recipe and make it more simple and doable even for those who are not familiar with Indonesian cooking.
Tahu dan Tempe Bacem (Braised Spiced Tofu and Tempeh)
- 400 gr extra firm tofu cut into 3 x 3- inch
- 500 gr tempe cut into triangles
- 4 cups coconut water you may need more
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil divided
Spices to grind:
- 1 tsp coriander seeds or 1 Tbsp coriander powder
- 1 inch galangal roots or 1 Tbsp galangal powder
- 3 shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and finely minced
- 3 Tbsp kecap manis or sweet soy sauce
- 100 gr coconut sugar or use 60 gr brown sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- Place spices to grind in a food processor and grind into a paste. Add a bit oil to help it goes if needed
Braising the tofu and tempe:
- Place the cut tofu and tempeh inside a large pot, add in 4 cups of coconut water until it just barely covers the tofu and tempeh. Add more if it's not enough. Add ground spices, bay leaves, and seasonings. Bring to a boil and then lower to let them gently simmer until the water evaporates half and then turn the tofu and tempeh over and boil until the water is almost all evaporated and the spices are absorbed
- Remove from the pot and let them cool down
Pan frying tofu and tempe:
- Preheat oil and pan fried the tofu on all sides until golden brown before serving and serve with chili if you like
Super delicious and tastes like home. I added lemongrass and tossed in a few cubed fried potatoes. SO GOOD!
Hi Serena, Great idea on the lemongrass and fried potato cubes! So delish! I’m so glad you like 🙂
I forgot to mention, saute your garlic, spices, shallot in virgin coconut oil, before adding the liquid ingredients, which adds a beautiful scent & flavor.
Also, try adding a lemongrass stalk to the braising sauce base, along with some ginger. They add another layer of flavor. Even a couple of kafir lime leaves can be thrown in to intensify & build more flavor layers.
Lastly, coconut milk or coconut water are also really important in terms of traditional flavor, although this dish can be made without. If you don’t have the coconut water suggested in this recipe, use full fat coconut milk that has been watered down (maybe 1/2 a can of coconut milk + 3 full cans of water to cover all of your tempeh).
A few extra ingredients & some small extra steps give you huge payoff in flavor.
Thank you so much for your tips. I agree, sometimes extra steps are worth it!!!
I lived & worked in Indonesia for many years, and learned to cook several Indonesian dishes while there. One of my favorites was / is still tempe bacem (properly pronounced TEM-PAY BA-CHEM). I ate it every weekday for lunch when still living in Jakarta as we were lucky enough to have a woman on the ground level of our office building who had a killer-good warung. Her cooking was amazing. She taught me how to make this so I could have it on weekends too 😂
Regarding the shallots & garlic which weren’t mentioned in this recipe’s instructions: be aware that your shallots may be significantly larger than typical Indonesian shallots. Adjust to taste. I use 1 large shallot.
The other thing re the shallots & garlic in the recipe: I was taught to first dry saute my ground spices, then add a couple of tbsp of pure coconut oil to the pan, then add the garlic & shallots & saute til soft.
THEN add the liquids & other recipe components to the sauce base you will be simmering your tempeh in.
Afterwards, saute on low-med heat til slightly caramelized.
Serve with simple stir fried vegetables & rice, or whatever else you’d like.
FYI using whole spices, dry sauteeing them, then quickly pounding them in a mortar & pestle greatly adds to the flavor of this dish. And don’t forget to add peppercorns 🙂
We just got a fresh batch of 30 tempeh blocks from a local Indonesian maker today, so I’m making tempeh bacem for dinner. Already drooling 😊
Very good flavor. But make sure to use super firm tofu because I used firm and it did not hold up well to the braising process, got pretty mushed up. I pan fried and you have to be pretty quick because with the sugars in the braising liquid the tofu and tempeh charred pretty quickly.
Yes, extra firm tofu is necessary for this otherwise it won’t hold up well after being braised and good point on pan frying quickly too because they can get charred quickly
Is sweet soy sauce the same as kecap manis or can you provide more description of what we should buy? Planning to make this dish this weekend for a potluck based on your blog!
Yes, sweet soy sauce is kecap manis.
When you say sweet soy sauce do you mean kecap manis? Or what specifically? Planning to make this for a potluck this weekend based on your blog!
Made these last week – HOLY SH*T! I’ve been eating tempeh and tofu for years and was skeptical of this recipe never having braised tempeh before but thought I’d give it a try. Wow, really wow! So much flavor got packed in there. I will be making this again. What I really likes about it was that I could braise a bunch of tempeh at once on the weekend then sear it the night I wanted to eat it.
I’m sooo glad to hear that you like it!! I love to braise because the flavor can really get into whatever you are braising it in 🙂 Yes, definitely a great idea to braise them ahead and then just pan fry or sear them when you want to eat them! Thank you so much for letting me know! Made my day 🙂
That tofu is mouth-watering! This all looks so delicious!
I made the tofu and tempe bacem, delicious. I added shallots/red onion to the spice paste. Your intro mentioned shallots but don’t see shallots listed on the recipe. I don’t do deep frying so I just put them under broiler after the shimmering. Love this.
Sorry, I forgot to add in the shallots after updating the recipe. I think they taste good even without deep-frying 🙂
I am so glad I found your website. I’m always looking for simple Indonesian recipe but usually had to translate/convert the ingredients first before cooking. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Making hubby go back to simple food–too much meat makes high blood pressure 🙂
Thank you for stopping by. I’m glad you arrived here 🙂 and hope that you find this site useful for your purpose as well. Let me know how it turns out if you will 🙂