Tempeh with red chilli & palm sugar


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a side dish

Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

  • About

This is a great snack with drinks or a side dish to add a kick to any meal. Prepared in this elegant Javanese style it is packed with crunch and flavour. The palm sugar forms a sticky glaze, whilst generous lashings of chillies leave a long, lingering burn on the palate. Add some redskinned peanuts into the mix if you like, frying them to a crisp golden in the same oil as the tempeh.


  • 60 g (2 oz) dark palm sugar (gula jawa)
  • 300 g (10½ oz) tempeh
  • oil, for frying
  • 5 small red Asian shallots, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1-2 red chillies, sliced
  • 1 lime leaf, deveined and finely shredded (optional)


Shave the palm sugar into a small pan and add 70 ml cup) water. Cook until the sugar has melted and the mixture has bubbled to a dark syrup. Season with a good pinch of salt and set aside.

Slice the tempeh into skinny batons, like nubbly matchsticks. Heat 5 cm (2 inches) of oil in a wok until the oil bubbles around the handle of a wooden spoon. Add the tempeh in batches and fry until nut brown and very crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Pour away all but a tablespoon of the oil from the wok. Add the shallots and garlic and soften over a medium-high heat. Stir in the chillies and lime leaf, if using, and fry until the garlic is pale gold. Add the tempeh and palm sugar syrup and stir-fry until the glaze clings to it. Leave to cool before tasting for seasoning.