My Mother’s Sambal Goreng Tempeh Kering (Indonesian Fried Tempeh in Sweet and Spicy Sauce)

This recipe for sambal goreng tempeh is always a great hit with friends and family. Many dinner guests have requested the recipe over the years, so when I went back home to the Netherlands last December, I asked my mom if she would show me how to make it, as I thought it’s about time to post it here on the website – so here it is!


For this dish, which is usually eaten with rice and alongside other side dishes, soft nutty pieces of tempeh are deep-fried until slightly chewy or really crispy (you decide), after which they’re coated in a thin layer of sticky, sweet and slightly spicy ‘sauce’ made with gula jawa, chili pepper, a bit of tangy tamarind concentrate* and some dried ground laos (galangal). The dish is quite easy to make (though, you have to be really careful not to burn the sugar-y sauce!), yet it is so delicious — It’s definitely one of my favourite foods to eat with rice!


*Tip: If you can’t find tamarind concentrate or tamarind paste, you could substitute it with a bit of lime or lemon juice + the tablespoons of water. While it does not taste quite the same, but the citrus juice adds a slight sour tanginess a bit similar to what tamarind paste would add to the sweet sauce.

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My Mother’s Sambal Goreng Tempeh Kering (Indonesian Fried Tempeh in Sweet and Spicy Sauce)

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  • V
  • VG
  • GF
  • DF
Simple topping for rice made with tempeh and a sweet and spicy coating
  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:30 mins
  • Serves:4
  • Freezable:No

Nutrition per portion

  • 1 (400g) block tempeh
  • 1 large yellow onion, or 1 – 2 large shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red chili pepper, or more to taste
  • sunflower oil, for frying
  • -
  • For the bumbu / 'sauce':
  • 60g gula jawa (palm sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon purified tamarind concentrate (or 2 teaspoons tamarind paste)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon laos powder (dried ground galangal)
  1. Prep: Cut the tempeh into 1 cm wide sticks, or even a bit thinner if you like a very crispy result in the end. Cut the onion in half and slice thinly and thinly slice the garlic cloves and chili as well. When using a block of gula jawa (palm sugar), finely chop with a knife or carefully grate it with a food grater. Finally, add the 1 teaspoon of purified tamarind concentrate (or the tamarind paste) with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl, and stir until dissolved.
  2. Heat enough oil for the tempeh to float in a wok, or frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the tempeh sticks (work in batches if you have to) and fry until golden (and crispy if you like) on all sides. Remove tempeh from the oil and allow oil to drain off on a piece of kitchen paper. Repeat process (fry until golden and drain) with the sliced onion and then the garlic.
  3. Clean the wok or frying pan save for 2 tablespoons of oil (or use a clean wok or frying pan + 2 tablespoons of oil) and stir-fry the chili and remove from pan.
  4. Add the “tamarind-water”, gula jawa, and laos powder. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble and thicken ever so slightly (be careful not to burn the sauce, the sugar burns easily).
  5. Quickly add the fried tempeh and stir well. Then add fried onion, fried garlic and sliced chili and remove from heat. Stir/toss vigorously until all ingredients are coated evenly.
  Serve either warm or cold with steamed rice and other side dishes.

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