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 caramelized kecap manis and palm sugar, and perfectly balanced by the nutty flavor of crispy tempeh, the crunch of roasted peanuts and the gentle heat of the chile. The scent of kaffir lime, lemongrass and ginger fills my kitchen every time I cook it, making it a favorite in our house that's quick and easy to prepare.
Technique tip: Tempe manis lasts for up to 3 days in the fridge.
- 3 ounces unsalted peanuts or unsalted roasted peanuts
- 14 ounces tempeh, cut into 1- by 3-centimeter chunks
- 1 large pinch salt
- 3 small banana shallots or 6 Thai shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 long red chillies, thinly sliced (deseeded if you prefer less heat)
- 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised and tied in a knot
- 4 kaffir lime leaves or 2 bay leaves
- 6 thin slices ginger or galangal, skin on
- 7 ounces snow peas, trimmed
- 3 tablespoons kecap manis
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- sea salt, to taste
- coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying
1. If roasting your own peanuts, preheat the oven to 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 store-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 chiles with the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and ginger or galangal until fragrant and softened.
4. Increase the heat to high, add another 1 tablespoon of oil and cook the snow peas 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 caramelized and clinging to the ingredients. Season with salt. Remove the lemongrass stalk and slices of ginger or galangal, then serve immediately.
Reprinted from Coconut & Sambal by arrangement with Bloomsbury Publishing. Copyright © 2020, Lara Lee.
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