Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tempeh Kering

Ok, you've made your tempeh, now what? One dish that is popular with the Javanese is tempeh kering--a sweet/savory dish that is like eating sticky, spicy candied pecans. Besides tempeh and laos (galingal--a relative to ginger that is used in a lot of Indonesian and Thai dishes), tempeh kering has chilies, shallots, garlic and tamarind, along with a load of palm sugar. By itself it would probably be too sweet for most palates, but it is a very pleasing complement to other Indonesian dishes. The central Javanese are known to have a particular fondness for sweet dishes, and this is a dish that one can readily find at rumah makans in Central Java.

Tempeh Kering
Approximately 14 ounces of tempeh (one block of the homemade tempeh), sliced into pieces 2" x 3/4" x 1/3"
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2--4 shallots, thinly sliced (shallots in Asian markets tend to be smaller)
1 TBS tamarind concentrate in 1/2 cup water
4 red chilies thinly sliced
5--9 TBS gula jawa (palm sugar), you can substitute dark brown sugar, but it's not quite the same
3--4 quarter size slices of laos (galingal)
several daun salam (salam leaves)
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
oil for frying

Fry the tempeh slices in several batches. Each batch takes about 3 minutes or so. Make sure the oil isn't too hot or you'll burn the outside of the tempeh while the inside will remain soft. You want a uniform crispness. Drain and set aside

Pour off most of the oil. Fry garlic and shallots over low heat until softened but not browned.

Add chilies and sugar. Fry until sugar is melted. (Gula Jawa is sold in cylindrical
packages. Although it is solid, it should still be soft and fairly easy to slice into coins. I didn't have any gula jawa in when making this recipe and used Mexican palm sugar, piloncillo, which is much harder. I dissolved this in the water for the tamarind in the microwave and then added to the chilie, shallot mixture.)

Add tamarind water, laos slices, daun salam and salt. Reduce the liquid until it is syrupy and fold in the fried tempeh. Serve with rice and other dishes.

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