Tempeh in Spicy Coconut Sauce

Origin: Kediri – East Java
Source: My mother


  • 250 g 2-3 days old tempeh / tempeh semangit
  • 2 pc salam leaves or bay leaves
  • 2 cm galangale, bruised
  • 500 ml thick coconut milk
  • 1 l cold water
  • 1 tsp sugar / palm sugar
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste

Spice for the paste

  • 5 pc large red chillies
  • 5 pc small red chillies / bird chillies
  • 3 cm kencur (lesser Galangale), peeled or 1½ tsp kencur powder/dried kencu
  • 5 pc shallots, peeled
  • 2 gloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 pc kaffir lime leaves

Tempeh in Spicy Coconut Sauce

This is a famous traditional dish from my hometown Kediri, a town lies in the near of Mount Kelud, East Java Province. This dish called: Sambal Tumpang. It is a actually a kind of sauce which made from old tempe, means tempe which let uncooked in room temperature for 2-3 days. By keeping in room temperature, the fermentation process of tempe continues, giving a distinctive sourness taste & browny color that makes it different from the fresh tempe. And what about the taste?? Well all I can say is you never know until you've tried 😉
Notes: It is impossible to get old tempe in western countries otherwise the shop will be closed by the authority by selling so called "Rotten Tempe" 😉 Therefore you can buy fresh tempe & let it in room temperature for 2 days or if you feel insecure, just take the fresh tempe & cook right away. I assure you, the taste maybe a little bit different but it still taste good 😉


  • Put these following ingredients in a large/deep saucepan: Tempe, shallots, garlic, chillies, kaffir-lime leaves, salam leaves, galangale & lesser galangale. Add-on 1 liter cold water.
  • Bring to boil & cook until all the above ingredients becomes soften. Remove from heat.
  • Take out all ingredients except galangale & salam leaves. Keep the stock.
  • Put all the other ingredients for the paste in a mortar/blender and grind/blend until smooth. (If necessery add a little water from the stock to help the blending process). Add the paste into the pan.
  • Put tempeh in a mortar & bruise/crash lighltly with the pestle until tempe is torn apart ( see pic).
  • Add the paste and pounded tempeh into the saucepan. Bring all these over high heat to boil.
  • Adjust the stove into medium heat, add the coconut milk & bring to boil. Stir occasionally.
  • Adjust the sesoning, add salt & sugar to taste.
  • Continue to simmer until the sauce becomes thicker. Stir frequently.
  • Serve hot with rice & blanched vegetables.
Keyword coconut sauce, Indonesian, sambal, spicy, tempeh

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