BigFoot’s Mother’s Legendary Sambal Tempeh

This tempeh recipe is a bit of a legend, and is apparently one of the first things BigFoot wants to eat whenever he sees his mother. Apart from fish curry. Poor auntie, working so hard in the kitchen. She says she enjoys it though. She’s a really talented cook.

Uncooked tempeh is pretty gross looking Ready to chop

I’m in the process of trying to photocopy her recipe file, but haven’t succeeded yet (there are varying accounts relating to whether she even has a file or not). Supposedly most of the recipes don’t have written proportions next to them, so I’m not sure whether even getting a copy of her recipes would help me much given my ineptitude.

This is a bit undercooked, it needs to be browner and crispier

The recipe I want to steal the most is her chocolate cake recipe: it’s the best I’ve had since La Manila stopped selling theirs about 10 years ago (well it was a long time ago, I don’t know if it was 10 years ago…that seems like a long enough time to me. There used to be a thin golden layer in the middle of that cake, anyone know what it was??). I eat BigFoot’s mother’s chocolate cake out of a plastic box with a big spoon. I hid it in the back of the fridge so no one else can find it and eat it. Don’t tell anyone at home.

Sambal is almost cooked

Anyway, I specifically asked her for her tempeh recipe. Not for me, I’m not so nice. It’s so BigFoot can cook it himself and I can eat it. I do have standards, you know. Girl power and feminism, etc etc. Cooking is primarily for fun and to prevent deprivation / because I’m greedy, and I unfortunately don’t really enjoy spending 20 minutes flipping tempeh in a pan. It’s yummy though. Best persuade the party that craves it more to do that part.

It has a spicy, oniony, and satisfying flavour

It looks surprisingly easy considering its reputation. I was expecting something much, much more involved. Though tempeh always takes some time. However, the version we made last night didn’t taste at all like hers (I wasn’t joking, he actually did make it himself. I only operated the chopper). So yes, yummy tempeh recipe, but back to the drawing board clearly. Apparently if you add the dried prawns (we didn’t), it tastes more like the original.

BigFoot’s Mother’s Legendary Sambal Tempeh

BigFoot’s Mother narrated the recipe over breakfast, and I wrote it down. I’m not sure where she originally got it from, maybe she made it up. Note that I may have written it down completely wrong. Tastes good, anyway.

1 packet of tempeh – about 300g. I also chucked in a sliced potato because it felt lonely in the cupboard.
6 – 10 pieces dried chilli – depends how spicy you want it
1 – 2 pieces red chilli – the big ones. Again, add more if you want it spicier. Or add birds eye chilli too if you’re feeling brave. It doesn’t need it
1 large red onion, or 1.5 small red onions
4 – 5 cloves garlic
2 handfuls of ikan bilis
Asam jawa / Tamarind juice – crush a bit of the paste in a few tablesp of warm water, and add to taste. I crushed about 2cm in about half a cup of water, and added a few tablesp of that
Either: sugar to taste, OR about 2 tablesp udang kering blended with 1/4 cup vegetable stock – we used sugar, but it’s probably better with the prawns

  1. Throw the dried and fresh chilli, onion, and peeled garlic into the chopper. Chop chop nicely until it is relatively smooth. Pieces the size of those chilli flakes you get in the shops are ok. Add the udang kering (dried prawns) and vege stock here if you are using, and blend those too.
  2. Fry the ikan bilis with a little oil until it browns and your kitchen smells like fish. Set aside on kitchen paper.
  3. Cut the tempeh into little cubes, or slice it into pieces about 3mm thick. Fry with a little oil or grill these until they brown on all sides. Set aside on kitchen paper. A toaster oven is useful here, if you have one.
  4. Add about a tablespoon of oil to a wok, and fry the chilli – onion – garlic mixture. Keep going until it smells pretty fragrant and starts to brown. After it begins to brown, keep stirring or it’ll stick to the pan if you’re not careful.
  5. Taste. Add 2 tablespoons of the asam jawa liquid, discarding the seeds. Add a pinch of sugar. Taste. Repeat until it tastes good to you (we used about 5 tablespoons of asam jawa liquid, and about 1 teaspoon of sugar).
  6. Mix in the ikan bilis and tempeh.

Sambal Potato & Ikan Bilis, and Things that are Done during International Layovers

I feel like I’ve just done a naughty thing. Inspired by this post, I was bored during a layover while on a 30 hour plane journey (don’t ask, sometimes bad planning wins out). Everything was shut except the cosmetics store. So what did I do? I went in and picked out the yummiest sounding nail polish and whacked it on all my fingers using the tester bottle. It had cake in the name. Technically I suppose I haven’t done anything wrong, but since I had no intention to buy it I feel slightly guilty, almost as if I’ve shoplifted. Overactive conscience, can’t you go to sleep? It’s almost 3am in your time zone, all the good girls have gone to bed by now. I promptly smudged said nails by digging things out of my bag. Yes, this is me, not very patient. Or retribution in action? Perhaps I’m over-thinking this. I’ll probably do it again next time I’m in the airport in any case, so it doesn’t really matter.

On another airport related note, I really don’t understand why people queue for ages before the gate opens. I’m looking at a queue of easily 80+ people and the gate hasn’t even opened yet. I suspect they just enjoy queuing, you know how some people are. Things they appear not to enjoy include sitting on the airport floor like a hobo, judging by the looks I’ve been getting. Especially not if you’re wearing a dress. (Yes, I write to you from airports. I’m so dedicated.)

Anyway back to the food. No one wants to hear about airports, they’re sad places which usually mean someone is leaving. Unless you’re going on holiday, but that’s entirely different of course. In a good way. I digress.

Yes, anyway. Yet again, the attempt at this dish was the result of boredom and too much cold weather. I see certain conditions appear to make me more productive in the kitchen. Did you know that UK in the summer (where I’m going) is approximately the same temperature as Melbourne in winter? Interesting isn’t it. It’s not very nice of the Brits really. Talking about someone behind their back all the time, the way they do about the weather, is enough to make anyone pretty cranky. Forgive me, like I mentioned, it’s 3am in my head.

While trying to make a sambal potato dish, I actually made what tasted exactly like the tempeh madu recipe I was looking for a while back. To makes the switch, dry fry thin slices of tempeh until crispy, or grill them in a toaster oven, and substitute for the potato slices. I’ll probably do that next time, I like it better with tempeh. I still need to find the sambal potato dish I was looking for.

Sambal Potato & Ikan Bilis

Pinched from Love2Cook Malaysia and changed just a bit.

3 big-ish taytoes
3/4 cup ikan bilis – approximately.. a bit more, a bit less, it should be fine
1/2 a red onion – supposed to use 3 shallots. I was being cheap again and didn’t want to buy a whole bag.
3 cloves garlic
9 small dried chillies – use more for more heat, use less if your chillies are bigger, or if you want it less spicy
2 tablesp oyster sauce
3 teasp brown sugar – or you can use normal sugar, or a couple of tablespoons of honey, I didn’t have any on hand

  1. Slice your potatoes into wedges or strips. I chose strips for therapeutic reasons (no not really, I wasn’t thinking straight). You should do wedges,  they’re less work to fry. Fry them in a bit of oil until they’re light brown on both sides, and set aside on some kitchen towels if you have them.
  2. Wash the ikan bilis, you don’t know where they’ve been. Fry them until they’re crispy. Use a little bit of oil, and don’t put the heat too high. Set aside with the potatoes.
  3. Using your trusty chopper, chop the garlic, onion and dried chillies. Fry them in a bit of oil until they start to brown, and your eyes sting when you stand over the pan.
  4. Add the oyster sauce and sugar. Fry a bit longer. Taste to see if you like it, adding a little more oyster sauce or sugar depending on whether you want it a bit more salty or sweet.
  5. Remove from the heat, and add the potato and ikan bilis. Mix well, but don’t be too harsh! You don’t want to mash the nice potatoes.
  6. Eat! With rice. And other dishes. You can’t just eat potato and rice for dinner, even though that was one of my favourite meals when I was little.

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.