Tempe bacem is a popular Central Javanese dish, eaten either as a snack or with steamed rice. The main ingredient here is tempe (sometimes spelled tempeh), or fermented soybean cakes, a protein-rich soy product that is indigenous to Indonesia.
The dish uses a common Indonesian cooking technique known as bacem in the Javanese language. This technique involves boiling a main ingredient – in this case tempe – with a spice paste, and reducing it until all the liquid evaporates. The tempe is then deep-fried or grilled. This technique is a great way to infuse the tempe with other flavours, while at the same time indulging in a deep-fried treat!
When eaten as a snack, Indonesians like to pair tempe bacem with a whole fresh chilli. The customary way to snack on tempe bacem is by taking small bite of tempe, followed immediately by a small bite of fresh chilli, and chewing it together. Remember to always bite the tempe first, or your mouth will be on fire!
You can keep the tempe in the refrigerator for a few days before deep frying it, to make sure the flavours are fully absorbed.Print
The star of this dish is the tempe, or, fermented soy cake, which is one of Indonesia’s greatest contributions to the culinary world. Boiled with spices and then deep fried, tempe bacem can be eaten as a vegan, protein-rich snack, or with rice.
- 250 grams tempe, cut in small pieces depending on the shape of the tempe. If it’s block-shaped, you can cut it into 2x2 cm blocks.
- 8 small shallots
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tbs coriander seeds
- 100 grams palm sugar
- 1 tsp tamarind juice (optional)
- 3 cm galangal, bruised
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup coconut water OR plain water
- Salt to taste
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- Using a food-processor or blender, blend the shallots, garlic, coriander seeds and palm sugar into a smooth paste.
- Put the tempe in a cooking pan. Add the shallot paste, tamarind juice, galangal, bay leaves, salt and coconut water OR plain water.
- Cook the tempe on medium heat. When the liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat. Continue cooking on a small flame until all the liquid is absorbed/evaporated. Turn off the heat. Set aside.
- Prepare a frying pan or wok for deep-frying. Deep fry the tempe until it turns golden-brown.
- Transfer to a serving plate. Serve with either fresh chillies or steamed rice, or both!
- If coconut water is available, using it instead of plain water will improve the flavour significantly, but otherwise it’s still delicious.
Keywords: Vegetarian, Vegan, Non-spicy, Soy