Usih of Tempeh

375-oesih-van-tempeA tender, slightly spicy dish of tempe. Tempe is made from soy beans. It is sold in blocks and you cut it into pieces. They can be fried or use in a stew like in this dish. This usih of tempe is a tasty and creamy dis because of the santen (coconut milk). Lots of spices go in like jinten (cumin), jeruk purut leaves (kaffir lime/lemon leaves) and ketumbar (coriander).

Usih of Tempe #375 translated from Beb Vuyk Groot Indonesisch Kookboek, page 307.


1/2 block of tempeh
1/4 block of santen (coconut cream)
1/4 liter of water (1 cup)


5 tablespoons of chopped onions
2 chopped cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of sambal terasi (chili sauce with shrimp paste)
1 teaspoon of galangal
1 teaspoon of coriander
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
2 stalks of sereh
2 kaffir lime leaves (jeruk purut)

Cut the tempeh into dices. Rub onions, garlic, with the sambal, turmeric, galangal, coriander, cumin and salt into a paste.

Bring water to the boil with the santen, add the rubbed spices, the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Let the tempeh simmer in this broth until it thickens.


The smell of the spices placed on my counter top are delicious. I’m getting hungry already. If you like your food spicy of course you can adjust the amount of chili sauce (sambal trassi). The amount in this recipe does not make this usih of tempeh a very spicy dish. It just adds to the flavor. If you like your tempeh more spicy just double the amount of sambal ;-).


The tempe should simmer in the broth. I try to rub my herbs and spices as fine as I can in the mortar. The flavors come out the best this way. The yellow color is because of the turmeric (kunjit). Very nice.


I dissolve the coconut cream in 1 cup of water. I make sure I keep the right amount of water because the tempeh broth needs to reduce a bit to thicken. When I use too much water it will need more time to reduce and the tempeh will be too tender.


I add the coconut cream to the water and let it dissolve completely before adding the rest of the herbs and spices. I let it simmer for a minute or two. I break the lemon grass and hit it a few times in the mortar. The fibers will give of more flavor this way. I add the rest of the herbs and spices all at once.

I let the usih thicken until the cubes are visible. That does not take long, about 5-6 minutes of simmering. If the sauce is reduced you can serve it immediately. It is great next to a sweet and sour salad of cucumber or atjar. I eat my usih of tempeh with a seafood platter and white rice. Enak sekali!


Beb Vuyk, best known for her Groot Indonesisch Kookboek (Great Indonesian Cook Book), was much more than a great cook. She belongs to the most important Dutch-Indonesian (Indo) writers and journalists of her time. Check this out.

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