A fine savour on simple pleasures

My aim is to reduce the tension in my mind by sharing my thoughts and experiences in the things that I love; which I could not express openly due to circumstances. Be it in doing stupid things, experimenting on new recipes, failings in research work, writings..just some doodle ranting stuff

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sambal Fried Tempe with Potatoes ~ Simply Vegan!

Yesterday, I cooked two dishes for dinner, a dry hot one with a mild soupy one as to complement each other. The first dish is known as sambal tempe. What is 'sambal'? Sambal uses chilli paste as the base for cooking. Non-Malaysian would be scared to eat if they knew this *chuckles* Or is it truly too hot for those lads? I don't know myself. The truth is, we Malaysians uses a lil bit of magic to kill of the hotness and adjust it to the right taste for each of our own tongue.

Well, I know a lot of people knows how to make this, heck maybe everyone knows. But, to help out the beginners, and the low-budgets, I usually will explains everything from the making of the chillie paste (incase, you didn't have enough dough to buy the premade packet ones, or incase it cannot be found in ur vacinity, only fresh or dried chillies are available) to finding the right kind of 'tempeh' and significance of alternatives for replacements of items that is not available :)

Tell ya one thing, if you prepared the cooked chilli paste properly, it can be kept for at least 1-2weeks and to be used with different kinds of stuff like fish, chicken, crabs, shrimp etc.

Well, lets start;


- 4 tbs of chilli paste - chilli paste can be made from dried red chillies of fresh ones* (check the postscripts)
- 1 big onion
- 1 pkt of tempeh - cut into thin pieces (+-0.5cm) - thinner tempeh would make it crunchier when deep fried
- 1 medium sized potato - cut in wedges
- 1 pcs of asam gelugor/keping (can be replaced with tamarind juice)
- sugar
- salt
- water (2 cups)


First things first, blend the onion with minimal water (if using dry blender is better) or you can use the conventional way, a good grace of mortar and pastle + sweat *laughing* Tell ya what? I've once used a laboratory's mortar and pastle used to extract mitochondria from leaves (an organelle within a single cell) to prepare ingredients for cooking crab :P Nobody knows and I'm still fine. So I supposed it not that bad huh XD

Use around 3-4 tbs of oil at medium fire and saute the onion until frangrant first before adding 4 tbs of chilli paste (this is to your choice, if you want to make more gravy, put more, if want it abit dry, you can put less). Keep on stirring. Don't stop since the heat can burn your chilli paste. When the mixture of oil with chilli paste started to separate themselves (you can see the oil comes to the surface in bubbles), quickly lower down the fire.

Add in 1 cup of water with 1 small piece of 'asam keping' and let it simmer for awhile. Below is an image of 'asam keping/asam gelugor'. An alternative for this is the tamarind juice. But this juice will only be added nearing the end of the cooking. I'll tell u when later.

During the meantime, immerse your potatoes in water for awhile to reduce the amount of white residues coming out of em. The white residues are starch. You see, potatoes are high in carbohydrate like rice, so you should reduce them if you wanna eat rice :)

Deep fry your 'tempe' using a different wok filled with 4 tbs of oil. Keep on stirring them once awhile. When they're nice and crispy, take em out and put on top of a paper towels for the extra oil to absorb em.

Then, fry yer potatoes until golden!

At this stage, when both ingredients are properly fried and put aside, check on your chilli paste (you should actually check them regularly on intervals and stir abit). If its rather dry, you can add in another 1/2-1 cup of water.

Add 5tbs of sugar, 1tsp of salt. Taste and adjust. If its not sour enough, put water and leave it for a while, let the 'asam gelugor' work its magic. If its not salty enough, just add salt. If the hotness still persists, add in sugar to neutralize it. Please don't add all 5 tbs sugar like I said in one go, what I mean is, put in abit and taste. It can never go wrong duh. Also, if you don't have asam gelugor and you wanna substitute with tamarind juice, this is the right time. Add less water if you wanna add tamarind juice inside.

Stir for a while. Add in the fried potatoes and tempeh. Close fire.

This is what a sambal tempe looks like. It does look hot and spicy, but believe me, its really not so..its delicious! And its totally vegan! For 4 persons :)

P/s; I'll explain a little about some facts on chilli paste, tempe asam gelugor etc for your reference.

(a) I've searched for the meaning of asam gelugor and found nothing. Maybe its a local ingredients. I can't even found the original fruit for this one. It is a piece of sun dried fruit. The original colour is yellow orangy. If for tamarind, easy2 :)

How to make a tamarind juice for cooking
- fresh tamarind - break the pod and take the fill within, put in some water and knead with your fingers (make sure not cuts on ur deinty fingers, coz it'll be oh so much pain since its acidic). The right final result would be to obtain a viscous brownish liquid, extremely sour. Use more tamarind if the liquid is not viscous enough. Then seive! Take the liquid only.
- tamarind in a ball form - take out like one handful and dilute with water. Do remember so seive the solution in order to separate all the impurities

How to make chilli paste for cooking
-fresh chillies - grab handful of fresh red chillies (no matter whats the number), cut to small parts (around 1-1 1/2 inch) and blend them with minimal water (make it around 1-2cups). YOu can remove the seeds if you want. Make sure its in paste form, if its not, add more chillies
-dried red chillies - cut the dried chillies to small pieces, boil them at medium heat until all the seeds come out and sink to the bottom. After the wrinkled dried chillies started to look like fresh chillies, close the fire and scoope out the surface using a ladle with small2 holes. You can also use a small seive. Blend with minimal water. Usually I use the whole bag of chillies and turn them to paste and keep in fridge. But remember this chilli paste won't last long if you didn't fry them first.

How to choose the right tempe/tempeh;
tempe usually comes in plastic packages or in banana leaves. The ones that you should pick must look reaally white w/o black residues on top. If its dark yellowish brown, NO. Coz yellowing means the tempe is old. The blackish thing might be fungal spores of Aspergillus niger (which means got cross contamination). Accumulation of this will lead to aspergillosis. If the texture is not firm, then oso NO. Btw, just so you know, tempeh is made from soya beans inoculated with a starter culture, the Rhizopus spp. So, its totally vegan, sorta like tofu :) You can check out the article at wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempeh Its really dem tasty! (if you cook it right tho XD)

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