Tempe Manis translates to ‘sweet tempe’ in Indonesian, but actually this popular vegetarian dish is a little bit spicy, a little bit nutty, a little bit sweet and a whole lot crunchy, plus it’s got some great underlying flavours going on from the blend of shallots, garlic, tomatoes and palm sugar.
You’ll often find Tempe Manis served with nasi campur (rice served with a variety of side dishes), and it’s a great addition to a lunch or dinner party where the dishes are served buffet style or family style so everyone can dig in as they please.
Tempe Manis is also a favourite with vegetarians because tempe is a fab source of protein. In fact, word on the street is that tempe is now being called a superfood because it’s so rich in protein, fibre, B vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron and zinc. Superfood or not, we’re a huge fan of Tempe Manis for it’s toothsome texture and balance of sweet, spicy and savoury flavours.
- 1/2 onion minced
- 3 shallots peeled
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 5 big red chilis sliced on the diagonal (more if you want to amp up the heat)
- 300 g tempe sliced into 1-inch matchsticks
- 3 tomatoes chopped into chunks
- 2 tsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
- 2 tbsp chili sauce or sambal
- 1 tbsp gula merah (palm sugar)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- Crush the tomato chunks in a mortar and pestle. Add the whole shallots and garlic in the mortar and grind them with the tomatoes enough to break them up and release the oils.
- Transfer the tomato, shallot and garlic mixture to a bowl and add the kecap manis, chilli sauce or sambal, salt, sugar, sliced chilis and minced onion. Let it sit 10 - 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile heat the coconut oil in a wok over medium heat. When hot, deep fry the tempe in batches either by the handful or half at a time depending on the size of your wok until golden and crispy (about 10 - 15 minutes), flipping often to make sure both sides cook evenly. Remove from the wok with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towel.
- Drain all but 2 tbsp of the oil from the wok and put back on the stove over medium heat. Drain the excess juices from the tomato-chilli mixture, and put the mixture in the wok. Cover and cook for about 10 - 15 minutes.
- Add the tempe to the wok and add about 3 tbsp of water, or just enough to make moist. Stir constantly over low heat for 5 minutes. Add chilli sauce or sambal, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice.