Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sweet Spicy Sticky Tempeh

I found myself giving a "cooking lesson" at the market the other day. I was going about my own business buying some tempeh from the stall, when an elderly aunty stopped me as I was paying.

"How do you cook this?" she asked in mandarin.



"Oh, err ... very easy. Just slice them thinly this way," I demonstrated cross-wise, on the piece of tempeh I was holding. "Then you fry them till crispy ..."



"You mean, just fry and eat?" she interjected, looking incredulous.

"No, no! That wouldn't be nice," I replied. "You have to coat them in a sauce."

"A sauce?" asked the granny standing next to the aunty.

"Er ... yes," I struggled. By this time, two other ladies within earshot had taken interest in our conversation, and closed in to listen.

"You have to fry the tempeh pieces till they are crispy," I repeated. "Then you put them aside. Next, you fry some shallots, chilli and garlic in oil until aromatic."



"When the shallots have softened, you add some water, some salt, and some sugar. Maybe a spoonful, depending on how sweet you want it to be. Keep stir frying over a small flame, until you get thick syrup. Then you throw the fried tempeh back in and coat them quickly in the sauce. And that's it!"

"Ohhh," came the collective response.

"For colour, you can add a dash of kicap manis. If you want to skip that, it's fine too," I went on. "BUT, the kicap manis makes the tempeh look and taste better."



"What's kicap manis?" one of them asked quizzically.


*Note that this brand has got a salty version too (in green wording). Make sure you buy the sweet version, with red wording, as seen above. I used to mistake this for a shrimp sauce, because of all the misleading logo and the word "udang" on the label. It's actually made of soya beans, and suitable for vegetarian cooking.

"Ah, it's a thick, sweet, dark sauce that is commonly used in Malay and Indonesian dishes," I answered, warming up to the idea of hosting my own reality cooking show.

"Over there," I pointed to the stall selling dried goods. "I usually buy mine from them."



Thinking the "class" was over, I prepared to make a move. But no, everyone wanted a recap!

"I am so old already," the granny jokingly lamented. "If you don't repeat, I won't be able to remember."

Oh boy.

To say it was a surreal moment is an understatement. I felt like I was doing a roadblock on The Amazing Race - you don't get your clue until the old lady's satisfied with how you've performed your task.

But still, for what it was worth, it brought a smile to my face each time I thought about my morning. :)


Tempeh + broccoli + rice = my meatless Saturday lunch.

Now, here's a recap for those who need it.

Recipe
(serves 2 to 3)
- 2 packets tempeh (which means 4 large pieces in total), sliced cross-wise, about 1cm thick
- 3 to 4 shallots, sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red chilli, sliced (de-seed only if you want it less spicy, or leave it out if you are cooking for children)
- 1 to 2 tbsps sugar, adjust according to taste
- Pinch of salt
- Water (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup), adjust accordingly
- 1 Tbsp kicap manis (I use Habhal's Kicap Manis)

1. Fry tempeh slices in oil till crispy. Set aside.

2. In a skillet, over a small flame, fry shallots, garlic and chilli till aromatic. When shallots have softened, add some water, sugar and salt, and continue frying till you get a caramelised syrup.

3. Throw in fried tempeh pieces into the skillet and toss to coat them evenly. Add splashes of kicap manis and continue tossing. Once all the tempeh have been coated in the sauce, dish up and serve.


Omit the chilli if you're cooking for the little ones. It's a good way to get children to start eating tempeh.

76 comments:

  1. I don't know what tempeh is, haha

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    1. Why not just find out by using Google? o_O

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  2. oh...you building ur fans club at wet market liao....you communicate with granny with dialect or English...

    Next time you go market...maybe a group of "eager housewives" will be waiting for you for more "cooking lessons".

    Good one though!

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  3. that looks amazing!!!! LOL if you set up a cooking demo stall in the area you'll be famous in real/no time JU! I'll cross the causeway and come Ju. ~ ^^ the old lady is so cute...she needs a replay! hey why am I laughing?

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  4. Kenny: Is it easy to find in HKG? In SG, it is readily available. Yet, this is not the first time I have been stopped by people asking what tempeh is. And it's usually an elderly Chinese lady who would ask. Which leads me to "conclude" that the older generation is not very adventurous with cooking dishes outside out their culture?? Anyway ...

    Irene: You are so funny! What fan club?! I spoke in mandarin, BTW. ;)

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  5. I always look that tempeh with long beans side-dish in Malay rice stalls. It is my must-order! ;p

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  6. Zurin: YOU are funny!!! I forgot to add that the lady selling tempeh was chuckling at first, but realised the business opportunity when the other ladies all bought tempeh. LOL. She should give out free recipe leaflets to potential customers to boost the sale of her tempeh!

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  7. Hi Ju - nice story! ..and your tempeh looks amazing!

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  8. haahaha! thats funny! its so comical omg.
    next time youd probably have your own show.
    a potential "ju can cook!"
    hahaha! i love tempeh.
    never fail to order it with my malay food :)

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  9. Hi,
    I love tempeh and often buy them here in NZ although expensive.I often cook it Tempra style,chuck it into my sambal tumis or even just fry them up with tumeric powder and salt.I will try your version tomorrow and I am sure my family will like it as I am already loving it.Thank you for the recipe.

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  10. Cool! I love tempeh and my mom used to cook this for us when we were young. I haven't had these for ages! Thanks for the reminder.

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  11. Wow.. Ju, this is a great recipe for Tempeh lover like me... The most i can cook is deep-fried it or cooked with sambal... em... now thanks for your recipe, we have another keeper in hand... :)

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  12. splendida ricetta!! complimenti!!

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  13. HAHAHAH! Ju - this just made my day! Those ladies sound hilarious - like the Golden Girls - did you ever watch that show? Anyway, so glad you gave them that cooking lesson - you also gave us a cooking lesson now!

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  14. Haha how cute! This looks good, I'll wait for my homemade tempeh to mature then I'll make some!

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  15. Aww Ju what an amazing story! They sound so sweet although I can see when it would start to turn a little surreal :P I think you do need your own cooking show!

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  16. HAHA! You are too cute! I can totally imagine the aunties buzzing around you! :) It's nice if you throw in some medium-sized long beans too!

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  17. I loooooove tempeh! But I've never cooked it myself. Now I'm kicking myself that I wasn't at your live cooking demo! :p I bet everyone got hungry standing there and listening to you talk... Just like I got hungry sitting here and reading this! :) I can't wait to try this!

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  18. I shall try making some tempeh too! The dish is simply a treat for any time.

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  19. Yes, the aunties at the markets can be quite endearing sometimes :) I think not many people would cook tempeh, especially Chinese. I have only cooked it 2 or 3 times in my lifetime... I should do it more often after seeing your lovely dish!

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  20. A lovely post and a delicious tempeh recipe. Thanks! I have some in the fridge!

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  21. I like tempeh too, usually I will add some ikan bilis, yummy. And I like how you use the conversation way to present this post, good idea.

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  22. Ju, this looks delicious. I love tempeh in sambal goreng and would usually order this if I'm having nasi padang.

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  23. My kind of dish..I bet we all make it..what a sweet story and how patient you were.I love it when someone asks me something:)

    I must pick up that red label:)

    How did you make it again?:)

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  24. Ha! How funny is that? I think you need to set up a cooking demo stall at the market, then you will undoubtedly be discovered by a food channel producer looking for the Next Big Star. Don't forget all of your loyal fans, my dear! This dish looks mouthwatering - I've made tempeh, but I'll admit never so deliciously as this.

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  25. Ha..haa..which market you usually went? I'll be there standby ;DD My husband loves tempeh, thanks for sharing this recipe.

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  26. Ju,
    I truly can imagine the audience you have at the market.

    You made a very nice version of oseng tempe. If it weren't labor intensive, I'd make tempe from scratch often because I don't like the frozen ones sold in the US market. I will have to wait until the weather gets warmer so that the fermentation will be successful.

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  27. What a cute conversation. You have them totally intrigued!

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  28. Ju this looks so delicious that I wish I could stick some chop sticks right through the screen...
    OY I need to get to my Asian supermarket again...
    Number one son is coming home for Spring break soon...he will love this!
    Thanks so much for being my inspiration!
    L~xo

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  29. You are a star at the market =) I've never had tempeh, the sauce makes it looks so good!

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  30. would so love to have been there for your little cooking lesson! :D well done. I love tempeh. My mum got me into it because she has this craving to nibble on it now and again. Delicious.

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  31. Hahah! I always find it funny when people ask me how to prepare dishes in the market! Thanks for this recipe. I just discovered tempeh last year and have been trying to find different ways to cook it. This looks amazing! By the way, I gave you an award on my blog. Congrats!

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  32. Well, aren't you the expert! This dish actually looks really appetizing. yummy!

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  33. While this looks great.....its your chicken tips that paid off, big time this weekend past. A whole roast chicken which I planned to last the week.....didn't. On a great note, I do have bones left...for stock so, I should be thankful right? Thanks. You may want to head over to food52 to submit your recipe. This week, its roast chicken week!

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  34. 新春快乐!
    Looks delicious - I'm going to try it tonight. Would normal dark soy sauce work too (for the coloring)? I picked up some of the sweetened Kicap Manis anyway; about 5 or 6 brands, but not the one you recommended - ended up getting 'Bango' brand.

    Is this Singaporian / Malaysian recipe, or Indonesian, or what?

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  35. this is so funny! it really happened? lol

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  36. Isn't it fun to have a conversation about cooking at the market? It happens to me all the time, I guess I must look like I know how to cook! ;)

    Again Ju, your photos are outstanding!

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  37. Hi Ju, you are so funny! I was also thinking you'll have your little fan club-"Little Teochew Ah Nia" Fanclub. ;p I like the way you communicate with the aunties. Btw, I'm curious to know, where do you learn how to make this? Some macik taught you? I love tempehs from malays stalls. :p Thanks for your recipe!

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  38. ps - Do you steam the tempeh before frying it? I've always heard that it's a good idea, but seems like most people skip this step.

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  39. Hi everyone! Thanks for your comments. :)

    Tuty: Is this what it's called? Oseng tempe? I always wanted to know. Thanks!!

    Will: I am thinking this probably originated as an Indonesian dish? But no doubt popular in Singapore and Malaysia too. You can use any brand of Kicap Manis. And no, I didn't steam the tempeh first. I didn't think I needed to, since it's fresh tempeh?

    ladyironchef: Brad, of course it's true lah! ;)

    passionbaker: Honestly Jane, I cannot really remember because I have been eating this for so long. But I am guessing most likely I learnt it from one of my previous Indonesian helper. :)

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  40. wah you're good! can give lessons to all the aunties. I will just tell her to season with salt and pepper and bake - which is my no pride way of preparing haha. I really love tempeh so I bookmarked your recipe, looks yummy!

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  41. I have heard that it's easier to digest (and, irrelevant in this case), picks up marinade easier when it's been steamed first. But this may be a white person thing, because I've never heard of Indonesian people steaming it first.

    I tried it tonight - pretty good, and I'll try to get my gf to put some pics up on her site (nakedsushi.net). I don't know if I just used too much tempeh (about 2 8 oz packages), but even though I increased most of the ingredients slightly (and used 3/4 C water), I didn't get that much of a sauce... is it supposed to have a kind of thick syrupy sauce coating it entirely? I think I just need to make more of the sauce next time. Will it darken when it caramelizes, and about how much should it reduce?

    And how much oil do you use to pan-fry the tempeh? Enough to come halfway up the side?

    Sorry for all the questions!

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  42. Will: Yes, the sauce is just enough to coat the crispy tempeh. Any more sauce/gravy and it would probably make the tempeh soggy. I think you nailed it, judging from your description of what you did. As long as I get a thick syrup, I consider the sauce done. And yes, as long as the tempeh is semi-submerged in oil, it's good enough. You need even less for non-stick skillets. HTH.

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  43. Ciao Ju anch'io non conosco il tempeh, è forse una specie di formaggio? Hai spiegato e presentato la ricetta in modo eccellente. Un abbraccio Daniela..

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  44. that story is so funny, we actually strike up conversations over food/ingredients in the groceries all the time too! we're always suprise at how friendly and knowledgeable pple are

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  45. ha ha sounds like you had fun teaching in the class! Wow, these look amazing! The color of the sauce is just so beautiful! I don't think I've tried tempeh but cant wait to try it!

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  46. I was on a tempeh kick for a while there. I have a few more temph burgers I need cook up and this sounds perfect!

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  47. Too funny... Almost everyday now, I am asking how to cook some exotic (to me) vegetable... thanks for helping ... We need it!

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  48. As always, your cooking looks beautiful! FYI, Tempeh is an Indonesian invention. It is even more nutritious than bean curd, and if made traditionally, is more easily digestible too. But the nutty flavor isn't everyone's favorite. One of my favorite snacks is to cut the tempeh into smaller thumbnail-size pieces, deep fry til crispy, drain, then dry fry with tiny fish, garlic and sliced chili, then coat with kecap manis at the very end. Enak sekali!

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  49. Oh.. tempeh tastes so good but not everyone appreciates it though. I will try this in one of my meatless challenges.

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  50. u got a food blog, teach classes in the market; i think the next step is open your own school :)

    fried tempeh in sambal!!! yummmm

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  51. Spot on! I love tempeh!!! Funny! I was only introduced to tempeh after having an Indonesian dish! Mmm ... Drooling at just the thought of it! Spicy & hot tempeh! Irresistible! Thanks for sharing, Ju!

    Btw, what a creative way to write! You're brilliant!

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  52. Thanks a lot, everyone!

    Tum Jiak: Don't friend you then you know! UNCLE!

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  53. I have never tried tempeh to be honest and haven't got a clue what it tastes like. I think I am going to check out chinese supermarket and see if they have some...

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  54. Oh, you get fresh tempeh there? We can only get the frozen ones here, which I think are not as good for sure.

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  55. I love tempeh!! I am drooling just looking at your pictures and I love that brand of kicap manis too. I think I am thinking of bring a bottle or two to the US :)

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  56. Hi JU, wow! I have never eaten this dish. Looks delicious!
    I am very impressed a lovely young lady like you a gourmet cook.
    Not easy find one like you, ahemmmm.
    You have fun, and keep a song in your heart, Lee.

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  57. I enjoy going to market... and I do have "conversations" like you had with your aunties too... very funny and amusing.

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  58. Beautiful dish... I made my own kicap manis when I didn't have any and love it. I agree you should have a cooking show... so funny and photogenic!!!

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  59. Now I have another way to eat my tempeh.Thanks.

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  60. Hahaha did this happen at our wet market?

    Wah I LOVE tempeh. Nadine actually likes to eat the fried pieces just like that. We also fry in bigger thin slices and just eat as side dish.

    For kicap manis, I prefer the ABC brand - somehow thicker and more shiok! Yeah this udang brand can be very confusing one!

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  61. What a wonderful dish, I've never had anything like it before, but I'd love to try.
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend.
    *kisses* HH

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  62. I have never cooked tempeh. Main reason is that hubby doesn't eat them. Your recipe looks very very good. I am tempted to make them soon.

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  63. These tempeh look like candies to me. I can even snack on them. looks very delicious. I miss tempeh here. Maybe I should learn how to make. Love that kicap manis. I used to fry noodles with it.

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  64. Another hilarious post! I don't think you have a fan club just for the recipes though. But also for the really nice posts you put up. Way to go! ~ CUG

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  65. I found myself opening up this strange package today, having finally found it at Giant supermarket. I had never seen it sold before, as I haven't ventured out into the wet markets yet. But I saw this today and couldn't help buying a packet. I was perplexed as to whether I should wash / scrap off the white, fungus-y looking coat on the tempe! In the end I washed one, left one intact, and then fried it all. Tempe chips are awesome.

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  66. Hi Judy, don't wash! :) It's meant to be that way. Tempeh is, after all, fermented ... which is good for us. I usually grab those that are still warm and fresh. Anyhow, I am just glad you gave it a try. :)

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  67. hello, do you have to boil tempeh before baking it?

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  68. hey where do you buy your Kecap manis? =( I cant seem to find any good ones!

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  69. looks lovely, nice and simple too, will try!

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  70. I had the worst time finding Kecap. I went to Whole Foods Market, Dominick's and Target. Nowhere in sight. I gave up after scrolling through a gang of sauces and used La Choy. Good news: The sauce turned out GREAT! Tempeh, however, is still a failure. I have mastered how to make tofu taste good so I think I'll try this same recipe with tofu because the tempeh still tastes about as unflavored as it does coming out of the package. I tried using a wok. Then I tried baking it. At one point I remade the sauce. It's not really crunchy either. It's brown on the outside but still taste like a bunch of nothing on the inside. But I'm absolutely using the sauce for this recipe again. That stuff is GREAT!

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  71. This recipe looks like a play on Sambal Goreng Tempeh! I made Sambal last night and I was SHOCKED by how delicious it was! I make Tempeh in Austin, Texas.. and I am always looking for new delicious Tempeh recipes. Thanks!

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