Tempeh is the Indonesian answer to Chinese tofu. I had asked Kakak Is to teach me her recipe for preparing sambal tempeh and have tried my best to convey in writing. I have also included a recipe for Kakak Is’s tempeh kukus (steamed tempeh) (see below). If tempeh is not easy to come by, you could very easily use firm tofu as an alternative. In fact sambal could be used as a base for cooking any vegetables. I have tried and liked sambal terong (aubergines) and sambal labu (pumpkin). You merely have to fry/cook the vegetables first and add it to the sauce later. Sambal is truly a simple fragrant dish. Preparation and cooking took 30-40 minutes  but I am sure with practice one could whip up a sambal in 20 mins.

You will need a mortar and pestle for this recipe. If not you will have to improvise, you could lightly blend ingredients using a food processor or hand blender, but you’ll want the ingredients to be fairly coarse. I am hoping to experiment preparing this dish without using oil, if you’ve been succesful, please share. This is a vegan recipe. I have uploaded step by step photos for the sambal on postimage.

Kakak Is’s Sambal Tempeh
  1. Fry cubed tempeh thoroughly until crispy yellow-brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic, onions, candlenuts and diced chillies to the mortar and carefully pound until all ingredients have turned into a coarse paste. Feel free to add more red chillies.
  3. Heat pan and empty pounded ingredients from mortar, crushed lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal into pan and fry on a medium low heat.
  4. Keep frying until fragrant and splash a bit of water to keep ingredients from sticking to pan. But not too much as it should be a dry dish.
  5. As the ingredients appear cooked and fragrant, add the fried tempeh and heat through.
  6. Add sugar and salt to taste. This is ussualy a spicy-sweet dish, so you would add more sugar.
  7. After several minutes when ingredients have coooked, remove from pan and serve. I normally have it with Thai Fragrant Rice cooked with pandan leaves and coconut milk
Kakak Is’s Tempeh Kukus (Steamed Tempeh)
  • 1 block of tempeh (or tofu)
  • 2-3 tiny red onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red chili diced
  • Thai Basil
  1. Pound all ingredients in mortar with pestle until it turns into paste
  2. We ussualy ladle paste into banana leaves and fully wrap to make little parcels. I am not sure what would be an alternative
  3. Place parcels in a steamer and steam for about 15-20 mins. Don’t leave it for too long as it will turn to watery though I didnt mind it.
  4. Remove from steamer and serve. I normally have it with Thai Fragrant Rice cooked with Pandan leaves and coconut milk but I have also had it with fluffy brown rice and really liked it.


Laks Indrakaran

Kajang, Malaysia.


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