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I have to be honest… vegan cuisine has always been a bit of a mystery to me in terms of how to make it, and more importantly, how to actually make it taste good. Give me bacon, butter, pasta and some really nice cheese and I could whip up something on the spot, but tofu and tempe is not my forte.

That being said, there’s no doubt that going meat-free every once in a while is a good thing, so I enlisted the help of  Fivi Restika to wrap my head around plant-based cooking. Fivi has been on an almost total plant-based diet for the past few years, and she’s constantly experimenting with new ideas for vegan dishes.

Fivi recently invited me into her kitchen and demonstrated how to make this super easy tempe and tofu dish that makes use of classic Indonesian herbs and spices, and works great as an appetiser or even as a main course along with some rice. She also shared her homemade sambal recipe that adds a kick of colour and heat to the mix.

Chopping Chilis for Sambal

For those who don’t know much about tempe (don’t worry—you’re not alone!), tempe is an Indonesian staple that is made out of fermented soy beans. Here in Bali you can find it in any market or grocery store, usually wrapped in banana leaf. Outside of Indonesia, you can probably find it in any health food store.

There are more than a few awesome things about tempe. First off, it’s packed full of vitamins including Vitamin A, D, E, K, B1, B2, B6 and B12, as well as calcium, iron, protein and amino acids. Secondly, it’s easier for the body to digest the proteins and healthy fats in tempe than in tofu or other soybean products. Finally, the texture is pretty meaty, which means it’s pretty versatile and in our opinion a lot more satisfying than tofu.

Marinating Tempe

OK, so now that we’ve given a few shout outs to how great tempe is, here’s Fivi’s version of Tempe Goreng and Tahu Goreng (goreng means fried in Bahasa Indonesia) and sambal. All up it’s pretty simple to make. Basically you just whip up the spices, throw the tempe and tofu in the marinade, and then fry them in coconut oil and you’re done. The sambal involves a bit more arm-work, as you have to grind up the ingredients with a mortar and pestle, but hey—a little bit of exercise never hurt anyone right?

Note: The sambal in this recipe has just hint of heat, but if you’re somewhat of a masochist when it comes to spicy food (hello—me!) then feel free to amp up the burn with more chilis.

Marinated Tempe & Tofu Goreng

For more healthy plant-based dishes, be sure to check Fivi’s Instagram feed @fivirestika!

Marinated Tempe & Tofu Goreng

Fivi's Marinated Tempe & Tahu Goreng

These healthy vegan snacks are made with marinated tempe and tofu fried in virgin coconut oil and served with a vibrant tomato and chilli-based sambal.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Indonesian
Servings 4


Tempe & Tofu Goreng

  • 250 g tempe sliced into long strips
  • 250 g tofu sliced into 2-inch cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 knobs turmeric about the size of your thumb, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil


  • 2 small tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 4 shallots sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 4 bird's eye chilis seeded and sliced
  • 2 large red chilis seeded and sliced
  • 4 jeruk limo (small green limes)
  • 4 sprigs kemangi (lemon basil) leaves removed


  • Place the garlic, coriander powder, turmeric and salt in a food processor with about 2 tbsps of water and blend to a paste.
  • Pour the paste into a bowl and place the tempe and tofu in the paste, turning to coat. Let them sit for at least an hour, or refrigerate overnight for more intense flavours.
  • Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a pan over medium heat and fry the tempe until golden and crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Heat the remaining oil in a wok or small saucepan and add the tofu. Fry until slightly golden, remove from pan and drain on paper towel.


  • Heat 1 tsp coconut oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, chillis, garlic, and shallots and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let them simmer until soft and fragrant. Take off the heat and let cool.
  • Place the cooled sambal mixture in a mortar and grind with a pestle until it is slightly smooth, but still has a few chunks in it. Squeeze the lime juice into the mixture to taste. Serve with the tofu and tempe and garnish with lemon basil.


Tempe absorbs oil quickly, so you don't need much oil to fry it. Tofu, on the other hand, will stick to the pan quite easily, so Fivi recommends using enough coconut oil so that the tofu can 'float' in the oil.