Tempe is a common alternative to meat in Indonesian cooking and is thought to be very healthy. This recipe for sweet, spicy tempe works really well as a starter or a main course and can be easily adapted for vegetarians by leaving out the terasi (shrimp paste) and adding a little extra salt to compensate.
Although tempe can be tricky to find in the supermarket, many health-food shops and Asian supermarkets stock it. Tempe freezes really well so buying it in bulk when you see it isn’t a problem.
In this recipe, the palm sugar gives the sweetness and helps cancel out some of the acidity of the chilli. If you can’t find palm sugar, brown sugar will do. If you want to make the recipe even spicier, substitute the large red chilli for two smaller ones.
Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
1 block of tempe (about 225 grams) sliced or cut into thin strips
Enough vegetable or ground nut oil to cover the tempe when deep-frying
3 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar if you can’t find any)
Spice paste: (to be ground in a pestle and mortar or food processor)
4 cloves of garlic
1 large red chilli
1/2 spoon of terasi (shrimp paste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1. In a wok or deep-fat-fryer heat some oil (enough to cover the tempe) and deep-fry the tempe. This usually works best if you do it a few pieces at a time, that way you will need less oil.
2. When golden brown on the outside, take the tempe out of the oil and leave it to drain.
3. Get rid of the oil except for about three tablespoons then lightly fry the spice paste in the remaining oil to release the flavours. Add the palm sugar and continue to while stirring until the oil is red and has mixed with the spice paste.
4. Add the tempe and stir-fry until evenly covered in the sauce.
Serve with rice or noodles.