Sambal Tempeh is one of many Indonesian dish we love. We like its texture and its flavour combination. We like it either thinly sliced, julienne, or cubed. We like it hot with loads of chilies, sweet and sour with the acidity of homegrown tomatoes, or dark and sticky with drizzled of kecap manis.
We like it in many ways, because tempeh is a versatile soy cake.
Tempeh has been a missing ingredient in my kitchen for years, since I could not find where to locate shops which sell tempeh starter. Unless we are back holidaying in Bali, we have not eaten tempeh anymore.
Since Tonzu's organic tempeh seems to stop coming onto shelves at our local supermarket, I decided to home-produce tempeh myself, just to supply our household and to be there when we need it.
So, I phoned order Tofu Shop in North Shore, Auckland one day to send me the original tempeh starter, coming directly from Indonesia. I found split soy beans at our local Asian groceries shop and that is marvelous, given that I don't have to hull and split them myself.
I soaked the beans overnight and started to cook them the next day. Drained and placed them on top of a large serving tray lined with paper to absorb more water. I let them dry, until they were completely dry. I stirred them every now and then, to make sure that there is no excess water trapped in between layers of beans.
When they were dry, I spooned over them the tempeh starter, and then mixed them thoroughly. It is said that you have to mix the starter well into the soy beans. This is to make sure the rhizopus spread evenly in between layers, top and around the cakes, so you will have beautiful tempeh structure.
This tempeh making is not my first try. It was back in 2008 I first tried to make tempeh. I used grape leaves to wrap the tempeh, which was rather not disappointing.
I was trying to replicate my late grandmother's used of teak leaves when she produced tempeh to sell at the local market. At that time, banana leaves were hard to find, even at our local Asian groceries shop. I had to think of something else. Just because our grape leaves were lush and green, I thought I could use them. I still think that banana leaves are the greatest leaves to wrap tempeh though. They make tempeh smells so distantly, part mushy because of the rhizopus, part greenish, you know, like fresh air after the rain. I really can't find the right word for it.
This time, I just use ziplock bags, because they are simply handy. Just remember though, when making tempeh not to forget to punch your wraps or bags with a toothpick or something similar size, so your rhizopus will be able to breathe happily. Otherwise, your tempeh will become a wet soy bean cakes with aroma you don't want to smell, ever.
So I made 1 big tempeh in a big size ziplock bag, and 4 small size ones. I froze the small ones and use the big one to fill in the time we've been missing out.
I made Sambal Tempe to start the feast with. Here's what I do.
500g tempeh blocks
2 cloves garlic minced with 1 tsp salt
a little water
oil for shallow frying
5 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 red chilies, thinly sliced
5 green chilies, thinly sliced
3 red bird chilies, thinly sliced
1 cm galangal, sliced
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp dry shrimp paste
200 ml water
2 Tbs kecap manis
salt and sugar to correct the seasoning
a little oil for cooking
Sliced tempeh thinly.
Mix minced garlic with salt and a little water. Combine garlic paste with tempeh and set aside for 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Take tempeh slices, drain excess water on an absorbent paper, and then fry until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, large enough to fit in all the cooked tempeh. Cook all the chilies, shallots, garlic, galangal, bay leaf, and shrimp paste until fragrant and soften.
Meanwhile, combine tamarind paste and water, squeeze the tamarind until all the juices are mixed with water. Discard the solid tamarind pulp. Add this mixed tamarind juice and water into the fragrant chilies mixture. Mix well.
Correct the seasoning with salt and sugar. Cook until slightly thicken, then stir in the cooked tempeh slices. Mix well. Drizzle in kecap manis. Stir well and keep cooking until it's rather sticky. Remove from the stove and serve immediately with warm jasmine rice and steamed greens. Enough for 6-8.