If you visit a Javanese restaurant, you will probably see kering tempeh among the many side dishes that you can order. Some places sell these in jars or packaged plastic bags, a great thing to stock at home since a couple of spoonful of this can perk up your humble steamed rice.
With this recipe, you can recreate said kering tempeh in your home. (Read: no need to smuggle some packages of kering tempeh anymore whenever you visit Indonesia! :D)
If you like having nasi uduk for breakfast, I highly recommend a side dish of kering tempeh and telur dadar gulung. ♥
Learn how to make homemade tempeh
Back when I was still in college, which was … err … a while ago, tempeh is not something you can buy in the US. Nowadays, it is more common to see tempeh in grocery stores, though not as widespread as I would like.
I still love making my own tempeh at home, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can try making your own homemade tempeh with my homemade tempeh recipe.
If you do buy your tempeh from grocery stores, please choose the ones made from soybeans as those are what we use in Indonesia.
What you need to prepare kering tempeh
Aside from tempeh, you will need the following ingredients to prepare kering tempeh: palm sugar, tamarind, red chilies, shallots, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam), galangal, coriander powder, and salt.
For tamarind, I usually buy wet seedless tamarind and add water to make tamarind paste as needed.
For red chilies, choose the spiciness level you can tolerate. My favorite is red Fresno chilies. For a spicier option, choose cayenne or birds-eye chilies instead.
For shallots, you can use either smaller Asian/Chinese shallots or the regular French shallot.
First part: make deep-fried tempeh sticks
First, cut your fresh tempeh into 2-inch matchstick pieces.
Then, heat a pot of oil for deep-frying. I typically make sure there is at least 2 inches of oil. Wait until the oil is hot. If you have a bamboo chopstick (just save a pair when you have some Chinese takeout), you can lower one chopstick and if the oil bubbles around the chopstick, it is ready.
Next, deep fry tempeh until golden brown and crispy. If you have a small-ish pot, don’t crowd the pot, but deep fry the tempeh in batches.
Finally, once the tempeh sticks are all golden brown and crispy looking, scoop it up with a strainer (a fine mesh skimmer or a spider strainer is really the best tool for this) and set aside over a wire rack to remove excess oil.
Second part: make the sweet and spicy glace
Once you have deep-fried your tempeh, it is time to make the sauce. Make sure your prep work is all done since this part will be super quick.
First, heat 2 tablespoon oil in a wok/frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the spice paste, coriander powder, thinly sliced red chilies, kaffir lime leaves slivers, and daun salam (if using) until fragrant. (~ 3 minutes)
Then, add palm sugar, salt, and tamarind paste. Stir and cook until everything boils and bubbles vigorously. (~ 2 minutes)
Finally, once the sauce looks thick, return the deep-fried tempeh sticks to the wok/frying pan, and toss gently until all the tempeh pieces are fully coated with the sauce.
Quickly turn off the heat, transfer tempeh to a serving plate and serve immediately.
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