Chile Pepper

Tempeh Manis (Sweet Soy Tempeh)

May 24, 2021
7 Ratings
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Tempe manis is a stir-fry that is rich, sweet and spicy all at once. The sweetness of the dish is a trademark of central Java, where I learnt the recipe – it’s sticky with caramelised kecap manis and palm sugar, and perfectly balanced by the nutty flavour of crispy tempeh, the crunch of roasted peanuts and the gentle heat of the chilli. The scent of makrut lime, lemongrass, and ginger fills my kitchen every time I cook it, making it a favourite in our house that’s quick and easy to prepare. Best served with red rice, tempe manis lasts for up to 3 days in the fridge.

I adore shop-bought kecap manis, but it can be difficult to find in some general supermarkets. This recipe makes a perfect substitute and, stored in an airtight container, keeps for several weeks in the fridge.

Reprinted from Coconut & Sambal by arrangement with Bloomsbury Publishing. Copyright © 2020, Lara Lee.Lara Lee

What You'll Need
  • 90 grams unsalted peanuts or unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 400 grams tempeh, cut into 1x3-cm chunks
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 3 mall banana shallots or 6 Thai shallots, peeled and thinly sliced 

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 long red chillies, thinly sliced (deseeded if you prefer less heat)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bruised and tied in a knot
  • 6 thin slices of ginger or galangal, skin on
  • 200 grams snow peas, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons store-bought or homemade kecap manis (recipe below), plus extra for grilling
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying
  • Homemade kecap manis
  • 60 milliliters light soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
  • 90 grams palm sugar or brown sugar
  1. If roasting your own peanuts, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6/400°F, scatter the peanuts over a baking tray and bake for 5–10 minutes or until golden, shaking the tray during cooking so they roast evenly. Set aside. If using shop-bought roasted peanuts you can skip this step.
  2. Heat 4 tablespoons of oil with a large pinch of salt in a frying pan over a high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add half the tempeh and fry until golden, about 3–4 minutes, then drain on a tray lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tempeh, adding a little more oil if necessary. Alternatively, if you prefer to grill your tempeh, brush it with a mixture of 1 tablespoon each of oil and kecap manis and place it under the grill on a high heat for 3–4 minutes each side.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the shallots, garlic and chillies with the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and ginger or galangal until fragrant and softened. Increase the heat to high, add another 1 tablespoon of oil and cook the mangetout for 1 minute. Add the fried tempeh and roasted peanuts, stirring them continuously. Finally, add the kecap manis and sugar and water mix to the pan, stirring until it is caramelised and clinging to the ingredients. Season with salt. Remove the lemongrass stalk and slices of ginger or galangal, then serve immediately.
  1. Homemade kecap manis
  2. Combine the soy sauce and sugar in a small saucepan, place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and thicken to the consistency of maple syrup. This should take no longer than 5 minutes. Leave to cool.

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  • NYC Cook
    NYC Cook
  • SNLarini99
Lara Lee

Recipe by: Lara Lee

Lara Lee is a Chinese-Indonesian and Australian chef and food writer. She is the author of Indonesian cookbook Coconut & Sambal, and a contributor for Food52, Bon Appetit, the Guardian and New York Times. Her book was named one of the best cookbooks of 2020 by the NYT, Guardian, Eater, National Geographic and more. When she's not cooking, you'll find her teaching Indonesian words to her toddler Jonah.

2 Reviews

NYC C. October 6, 2021
Great dish, but the ingredient list is missing the kaffir lime leaves and the instructions omit adding the snow peas. I assume three or four kaffir lime leaves are needed.
SNLarini99 September 17, 2022
I found the same recipe by accident - which has a complete ingredient list