Desperate Times and Tempe Kering

Deprivation is a sorry sight, and sometimes you have no choice but to cave and help. Home cooked food is often the only cure, because, for whatever reason, the people outside don’t cook the food that you want to eat. Unfortunately, sometimes the recipient is so excited about the food that you end up having to eat it 3 days in a row. Not that that’s a problem.

And thus began the great Melbourne tempeh hunt. I’m sure that the natives of this fine and freezing city* are going to be able to tell me exactly where to get the  nicest and freshest tempeh, wrapped in a leaf just like how it is at home. But, at the time, I wasn’t privy to such information.

The search started, cold and damp, with a trip to the market.  Not just any market, but the Queen Victoria market. On a Monday, at 4.30pm. They should have everything right? Yes, it was closed. Please try not to laugh too much, it’s only my third trip to Melbourne. I don’t know these things. I tramped across the road to the nearby Asian supermarket, only to find that Korean supermarkets don’t seem to sell tempeh. Cold and despondent, I caught the tram home.

The next day I decided to search in a more targeted manner. I used the internet! Internet sources would have me believe that tempeh could be found in Safeway in QV. That sounded positive, and matched up with what my friend had told me the day before about a Safeway in QV. Full of hope, I made the 40 minute journey through the cold to QV only to find…that Safeway doesn’t exist. There is no shop called Safeway in QV Melbourne. How could both my friend and the internet lie to me this way?

After a thorough examination of the QV directory board I decided to try and check out the Woolworths in the basement. I haven’t had the best opinion of Woolworths so far, based on my very lengthy experience with them (a whole two trips worth of supermarket study!), as they don’t seem to have many local ingredients in comparison to Coles. That’s my local not Australian local, in case you’re confused. As I suspected, they didn’t have tempeh.

Now, I already knew that the directory board didn’t mention a Safeway but I thought that perhaps QV was being tricksy, and that Safeway had an external entrance, or was on another level. So I walked around the outside of the shopping centre. No Safeway. In a last ditch effort I headed to check the directory on the upper levels of the building, because, perhaps, they might have different shops, you know? Logic was slightly lacking at this point.

But as luck would have it, I spotted a different shop on the directory on that upper floor – Laguna Asian Supermarket! Certainly there was no mention of this on the ground floor directory (I’m not very observant it seems). Of course I couldn’t find the shop at first. So, I did the next best thing. I followed some Asian student-looking girls around the upper floor until I eventually found myself near the shop entrance. Just to clarify, I’m not a large man, I’m an Asian student-looking girl too so it doesn’t qualify as stalking. In that house of glory, tempeh awaited!!!

After the day’s escapade I found myself questioning again whether Safeway really existed – seeing as, after looking at the directory three times, I only spotted Laguna Asian Supermarket on the third go.

I was later told that Safeway = Woolworths. Anticlimactic much.


Tempe Kering / Tempeh with Chilli, Peanuts, and Sweet Soya Sauce

Borrowed from Cooking Tackle, and edited.

1 block of tempeh, sliced thinly – about 3mm thick. 1 block is about 300g.
2 handfuls of peanuts, raw
6-7 small to medium sized (5cm length) chillies or equivalent**
3/4 large onion (preferably red)
4 cloves garlic
4-5 thin slices galangal
3cm asam jawa / tamarind pulp, mashed into 3tablesp warm water
4-5 tablesp kicap manis (sweet soya sauce)
1 teasp sugar, more to taste
Salt as needed

  1. Fry or grill the tempeh slices until crunchy.
  2. Dry fry the peanuts
  3. Grind chilli, onion, and garlic in a chopper. Traditionally done with a pestle and mortar, feel free to sweat it out if you like 🙂
  4. Add fried peanuts to the chopper and pulse for a few seconds
  5. Heat oil in a wok, and fry galangal with the chilli paste. Fry over medium heat until the colour of the mixture darkens.
  6. Add the asam jawa liquid, reserving a little and tasting as you go so it doesn’t get too sour.
  7. Add the kicap manis, sugar, and salt, tasting until you are satisfied. Add all of the kicap manis, asam jawa, sugar and a pinch of salt to have it taste like mine – but be warned, I like mine a bit more sour than usual.
  8. Add the tempeh slices to the wok, mix til coated.
* Actual temperature:  between 10 and 18 degrees C. That’s really cold. Feels like: 2 degrees C. I am relatively short person and therefore have a high surface area to volume ratio.
**You can play with this to change how spicy it is. For a less spicy dish, use 3 large chillies and 2 small ones. For a bit more burn, use 1-2 large chillies and 4-5 bird’s eye chillies. I was unable to get bird’s eye chilli, and used regular small chilli instead.

2 thoughts on “Desperate Times and Tempe Kering

  1. Pingback: Happy Mother’s Pie | My Happy Bellea

  2. Pingback: Cold weather and Asam Prawn | My Happy Bellea

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