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.
Tempe manis is a stir-fry that is rich, sweet and spicy all at once.
- 90 g unsalted peanuts or unsalted roasted peanuts
- 400 g tempeh, cut into 1 x 3 cm chunks
- large pinch of salt
- 3 small 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
- 4 kaffir lime leaves or 2 bay leaves
- 6 thin slices of ginger or galangal, skin on
- 200 g mangetout, trimmed
- 3 tbsp kecap manis, plus optional extra for grilling
- 2 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar mixed with 2 tbsp water
- sea salt, to taste
- coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
1. If roasting your own peanuts, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6, 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.
• Tempe manis lasts for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Recipe and image from Coconut & Sambal by Lara Lee, Published by Bloomsbury (RRP $39.99).