Tempeh Sambal - Tempeh in Spicy Gravy

A quick and easy way to add protein to your vegan/vegetarian meals. This protein-rich dish can be put together in 30 minutes for a delicious main dish. It contains tempeh, crunchy peanuts and potato fries, all combined in a spicy and tangy gravy.


Tempeh is a must-have in your diet if you are looking for ways to add protein to your meals. Most of us on a plant-based diet tend to fill ourselves up with carbohydrates because we often don't have much choice in terms of proteins. However, to ensure a balanced diet, we have to make extra efforts to make sure that we get sufficient protein for our needs.

Tempeh is among the choices of vegetable protein which are easily available, cheap and nutritious. Tempeh is an excellent choice for vegans because firstly, it is a fermented food that contains probiotics. Adding probiotics to our diet is important to take care of our digestive system. When our digestive system is working well, we are less likely to get health problems. Secondly, although tempeh is made from soybeans just like tofu, it has different nutritional characteristics. The fermentation process that tempeh undergoes means that it has a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins (Wikipedia).


Tempeh is also better tolerated because the soy protein in tempeh becomes more digestible due to the fermentation process. Thus tempeh is said to generally aid in overall digestive health. Traditional tempeh making uses a starter culture for the fermentation which often contains beneficial bacteria that produce vitamins such as B12.

Tempeh originates from Java, Indonesia, but is available widely in Asian markets, including Malaysia. I often buy tempeh in the wet markets but they are also available in supermarkets/hypermarkets. They are used as a cheap protein substitute by the Javanese and are prepared in various ways.


Traditionally, sambal tempeh has anchovies and shrimp paste in the ingredients. However, I have successfully tweaked the original recipe to a vegan version without any loss of flavors.

This is a must-have recipe if are looking for ideas to include tempeh in your diet. I will be sharing another favourite tempeh recipe sometime in the future for those who are looking for something less spicy so look out for it.


1. Peel potatoes and slice thinly. Soak in salt water (2 teaspoons salt in 3 cups of water) for 10 minutes, then drain and add 1 teaspoon turmeric.

2. Divide tempeh into 3 parts and slice thinly.

3. Slice onions thinly.

4. Deep fry the sliced potatoes, tempeh and peanuts separately.

5. Prepare the chili sauce gravy. Pour 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan. Fry sliced onions for 1 minute. Add tamarind peel, followed by chilli paste. Leave to simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add brown sugar and salt.

6. Add the pre-fried peanuts, tempeh and potato slices to the chilli sauce gravy above. Stir until well-mixed and remove from stove.

7. Can be served with rice, bread or other staples.