Tempe has found new heights.
More people now than ever, realizes the importance of this fermented bean byproduct. Although ironically, Tempe’s superior health benefits were first discovered not in Indonesia, but by dutch food scientists by the name of Sylvia Keuth and Bernward Bisping who discovered that the B12 vitamins producing micro bacteria in tempe fermentation, can only be found in tempes produced in Indonesia. Bottomline, there’s ‘magic’ in the air we breath!
Recently, however, there’s been a ripple of tempe movement by the name of Indonesian Tempe Movement that would like to regain control over Tempe’s Indonesian roots. To lure Indonesians into realizing Tempe’s worth.
Wida Winarno is one of the movement’s main generator. She takes her love of Tempe from her biochemistry background, and her dad’s equal passion of the world of food science. She gives lectures and workshops on tempe making, not only to tempe fans well-traveled gourmands living in Jakarta but to women in Papua and even to inmates who according to Wina, yearns for life purpose even if it is something simple as the knowledge of tempe making.
I recently came to one of her most recent workshop in Nusa Gastronomy where we not only learned about tempe making and also the many types of tempe from different ingredients. It was my first time trying tempe from edamame beans and even black rice and the extra-large jack fruit seeds. “The hardest part is with jack fruit seed is that you need to slice them up for even fermenting”, Wida explained.
Wida also told the story about the oldest record of tempe in Serat Centhini, a twelve volume compilation of Javanese tales and teachings commissioned Prince Mangkunegoro (Pakubuwono V of Surakarta) that was written in Javanese and published in 1814. In the work, it was told that tempe was originated from Klaten, Central Java and was made by boiling soy beans, rinsing them, and fermenting it with yeast that was found in the surface of naturally dried waru (sea hibiscus) leaves.
Tempe is one of the few fermented items that has no strong smell. Bland, even. making it very palatable for anyone as it easily absorbs the flavors it is cooked with. Yet, unlike tofu, tempe has a more dense and firm texture that many takes advantage as meat substitute, especially for those trying to wean of meat products. That is why it also has gained popularity in world’s vegan & vegetarian community.
Tempe is also one of the most nutrition dense food item out there; not only the above mentioned B12 vitamin, tempe also has anti-bacterial properties, rich in isoflavonoids and also hypocholesterolemic (able to reduce cholesterol levels in blood); all of which are a result of the fermentation process.
The workshop came full circle with a full lunch by Chef Ragil of Nusa Gastronomy, who was present to patiently explain all questions from the participants about his all-tempe cooking that day; from amouse bouche to dessert!
Not only tempe made from organic soy, he also incorporated jackfruit-seed tempe for his amouse bouche, served with rendang espuma, then red bean tempe for his tempe burgers, koro beans tempe, sate kere or ‘poor satay’ made from tofu-making dregs, and for desserts, tempe gelato sandwiched between caramelized tempe thins. Such a delightful way of enjoying the humble tempe.
For more information about Indonesian Tempe Movement, you can follow their IG @tempemovement or FB IndonesianTempeMovement.