Thinly sliced tempeh, deep-fried until crispy and golden brown. With an awesomely delicious savory, sweet, sour, and spicy chili and coconut palm sugar sauce.
For many Indonesians, tempeh is almost always fried one way or another. The simplest way to prepare and cook tempeh is to cut it into thin slices, lightly salt both sides, and pan-fry with a little oil until both sides are golden brown.
This recipe for fried tempeh with chili sauce is slightly more advance than a simple pan-frying, but it is using simple ingredients, and the extra effort is worth it. You will end up with crispy and crunchy tempeh, with a savory, sweet, sour, and spicy glace in every bite.
Ingredients for fried tempeh with chili sauce
This recipe needs soybean tempeh, ginger, red chilies, lime juice, coconut palm sugar, and salt.
Indonesian tempeh is made from soybeans. You can buy tempeh from different beans or even a mixture of beans and grains in the US, but if you want an authentic Indonesian dish, please use soybean tempeh.
If your market doesn’t sell tempeh, making tempeh from scratch is a fun project. I have a homemade tempeh recipe that will guide you to make tempeh at home.
Coconut palm sugar
Palm sugar is called gula Jawa, gula aren, or gula kelapa. They are typically sold in blocks or cylinders. To use, you will need to cut the sugar with a sharp knife and chop it into smaller pieces. Nowadays, you can buy the granulated version too which is convenient.
Some good substitutes for Indonesian palm sugar are Malaysian gula Melaka, Thai palm sugar, coconut palm sugar, or even dark brown sugar.
I love using birds-eye chilies (Indonesian: cabe rawit) to make this dish, but they can be too spicy for people who are not used to eating a lot of chilies. For a milder dish, try using cayenne or Fresno instead.
If you are out of fresh red chilies, feel free to use dried red chilies too. Simply soak in hot water first until the chilies are soft before using them.
Frying thinly sliced tempeh
The key to crispy and crunchy tempeh is to slice them thinly and fry in hot oil.
First, fill a pot with about 2 inches of oil and heat on medium until the oil is hot. You can tell that the oil is ready when a piece of tempeh drop into the hot oil sizzles immediately.
Next, deep fry tempeh for about 5-7 minutes, or until they turn golden brown and crispy. Remove tempeh from hot oil and drain on a wire rack, a stainless steel strainer, or a paper towel.
Prepare the spicy chili sauce
The final part of this dish is to prepare the sauce to coat the fried tempeh.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok on medium-high heat, stir fry the ginger until fragrant, then add the chili, lime juice, salt, and coconut palm sugar. Cook until sugar turns to liquid and starts to bubble and caramelize.
Quickly return the fried tempeh into the wok, and gently toss until the sauce coats the tempeh evenly. Transfer tempeh to a serving plate and serve with steamed white rice.
Fried Tempeh with Chili Sauce
- 450 gram (1 lb) tempeh
- 2 inches ginger, peeled, and cut into match sticks
- 8 red chili, make diagonal slices
- juice from 1 lime
- 2 tablespoon coconut palm sugar, or brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- enough oil for deep frying
- Slice the tempeh into very thin slices, about 2 cm wide x 4 cm long x as thin as you can manage.
- Heat enough oil for deep frying in a pot/wok. Deep fry the tempeh for about 5-7 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel. If your pot/wok is a bit small, you can do this in batches.
- In another pan/wok, heat about 2 tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat, stir fry the ginger until fragrant, then add the chili, lime juice, salt, and sugar and cook until sugar has turn to liquid and starts to bubble and caramelize.
- Add the fried tempeh and toss until all tempeh chips are fully coated with the sauce. Remove from heat and serve with steamed white rice.