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 kaffir 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. —Food52
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 4
unsalted peanuts or unsalted roasted peanuts
tempeh, cut into 1x3-cm chunks
Large pinch of salt
mall banana shallots or 6 Thai shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
long red chillies, thinly sliced (deseeded if you prefer less heat)
lemongrass stalk, bruised and tied in a knot
thin slices of ginger or galangal, skin on
storebought or homemade kecap manis (recipe below), plus extra for grilling
palm sugar (or brown sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
Sea salt, to taste
Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying
- Homemade kecap manis
light soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
palm sugar or brown sugar
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Homemade kecap manis
- 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.