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Ideas for cooking tempeh

The usual way of cooking tempeh - at least in Southeast Asia where tempeh originated in Indonesia some 2,000 years ago - is to first deep fry it.

This gives the tempeh nice texture with a slightly crispy skin, The flavour also becomes more nutty, compared with raw tempeh that may have a slight "moldy" taste of raw mushrooms.

Cooking tempeh this way makes it delicious enough to eat on its own, or with a chilli paste or even tomato sauce or mayonaise.

In Southeast Asia, deep fried tempeh might be eaten with sambal belacan, a chilli sauce made with a shrimp (actually krill) paste called belacan. The belacan is first dry roasted - during which it produces a very strong smell that many Westerners find offensive - and then pounded with chilli, garlic and other herbs. A bit of lime juice completes the sauce.

I don't recommend this unless you live in Southeast Asia or are otherwise familiar with belacan. However, you can try eating deep-fried tempeh with other simple sauces such as:

Other ways of cooking tempeh

Some people worry that cooking tempeh this way might not be healthy. But deep frying, if done properly and using good quality cooking oil, is actually not all that bad for health. As an occasional treat, deep fried foods can certainly be enjoyed and it is better to make your own version than to eat fried foods at restaurants and other eating places where you are not sure about the quality of the cooking oil.

Personally, I am reluctant to deep fry not because of heatlh concerns, but because I find it troublesome - especially when I cook for little more than one person, since my sister who lives with me eat very little.

No worries. There are other ways of cooking tempeh to achieve similar results, such as:

Once cooked, the tempeh can be added to other dishes in place of meat or other protein. A simple example would be...

Cooking Tempeh with sauerkraut

This is an adaption of the German dish, Sausages with Sauerkraut. In its simplest form, all you need to do is:

  1. Cut the cooked tempeh into large chunks
  2. Cook with sauerkraut and some of the sauerkraut juice, over a medium fire for a few minutes.

Amounts and proportions are not really crucial here. You can use as much tempeh or sauerkraut as you wish. And cook as long as you wish (provided you don't let the food burn).

Of course, you can make the dish more elaborate by adding onions, finely cut carrot or other vegetables. You may also add herbs and spices like garlic, chilli, cumin or fennel seeds, etc. There are endless possibilities for variations.

The above is just an illustration of how easy cooking tempeh is. You can use tempeh instead of meat in just about any dish, such as stews, curries, dishes with sweet and sour sauce, stir-fried vegetables, and so on.

Cooking tempeh in Sayur lodeh

In Southeast Asia, a popular way of cooking tempeh is in a light vegetable curry called sayur lodeh. This curry uses diluted coconut milk as the curry base and cabbage as the main - or sometimes only - vegetable. Again, I will give a very basic recipe and you can build on it by adding other ingredients for more complex flavours.



  1. Finely cut or blend the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and salt.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy pot and fry this herb mixture, over a medium fire for about five minutes
  3. Add vegetables and water or soup stock.
  4. Bring to the boil and cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes or longer.
  5. Add tempeh and coconut milk.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer another 10 minutes.

Optional additional ingredients:

For a more elaborate version of this curry, you could add other herbs such as:

Additionally, you could include other ingredients such as:

Click here for a pasta recipe that involves cooking tempeh with a spinach sauce.

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