Monday 19 February 2018

Auntie's tempeh

After a visit to Indonesia Indah once bought back the most amazing dish I ever tasted: Tempeh Goreng, or crispy fried tempeh, prepared by her Auntie. I had eaten tempeh before, but the one you can buy in Europe, vacuum wrapped, has nothing on the fresh one you buy here at the wet market. Also, I never really knew how to prepare it properly. Of course Indah was up to the challenge of replicating (or should I say improving?) the recipe of her Auntie.

Tempeh is a fermented soy bean product, which is more coarse then tofu; you can still see and taste the texture of the individual beans. If you have the proper starter, you can make it yourself relatively easily, but in Singapore it is not hard to get at wet markets or even supermarkets like NTUC Fair Price and Giant. The fresh ones are the ones rolled in green large leaves, and you need to feel & squeeze the packages to judge their ‘ripeness'. If they are not ready, the individual beans have not merged together, and you need to give it another day or so to ferment. Good tempeh should be a solid, white block. Once it turns black, it has gone too far. If in doubt, ask the seller for advice. 

Before you fry it, cut the tempeh in slices or just under a centimetre thick. Heat a couple of centimetres oil in a wok, and fry the tempeh until it is crispy and golden brown. For large amount it is best do this in several portions to ensure crispiness. Set aside the fried tempeh while you prepare the rempah - spice mixture. 

The quantities of these spices is indicative, this will be enough for 4-6 people. But Indah and I prefer to err on the side of too much when in doubt. You can play around with the amount and types of spices used based on your on taste and availability. 

· 5 shallots

· 2 cloves of garlic

· 2-6 chilis (use some large ones for colour and flavour, and as many of the small yet hot chili padi as you dare)

· 2 cm fresh galangal (lenguas / blue ginger) root

· 5 kaffir lime leaves (jeruk perut)

· 2 salam leaves (Asian bay leaves, we grow them in the garden but you can omit) 

· several tablespoons dark of palm sugar (gula malaka) chopped finely (add more or less depending on how sweet you like it)

· several tablespoons of tamarind paste (assam), dissolved in half a cup of warm water, seeds removed. 

Chop the onion, chili and galangal fine. Remove excess oil from the wok, and fry them in the wok in shallow, hot oil for a few minutes. Add the kaffir lime and salam leaves, and half a cup of water. Add the tamarind and palm sugar and stir. Let it cook for a few minutes. 

Add the fried tempeh, and stir well until all the flavour has been absorbed and the dish is nice and hot. 

Serve with rice and vegetables (like kangkong or stir fried long beans). For a more fancy vegetarian feast, add sambal eggs. I always like to make large quantities- this dish keeps well and is also delicious cold the next day. 

Monday 12 February 2018

Everything changes

I don't know if anyone actually looks at it ever, but there is a photo of me and the kids in the right hand corner of this blog. We are all balancing on that most iconic of the Lion City symbols: the Merlion. 

Perhaps it is time to change this photo, as it has become a bit dated. Not only is it about five years old, but the kids seem all wrong too. Tijm is standing still and smiles. Singapore's-next-top-model Linde, who usually strikes her most charming poses and smiles when a camera is in sight, is upside down; you can't even see her face. Baby Jasmijn is so little I need to hold her tight, and I can't remember whether this is because she was not yet that stable on her feet, or if then - like now - she always tried to escape and avoid being in any photo at all. Needless to say I still look exactly the same as I did five years ago - twenty eight forever.

When I first started blogging I mostly wrote about my children. Parenting; the sweet and the sour. When they are small, your offspring can consume your everyday thoughts. When we moved to Asia, the move and the wonders of the region began dominating my writing. Now, it has become a random place to share random thoughts, erratically and irregularly. Does a blog like this even need a photo, particularly one including my kids? 

Since we were on Mount Faber a few weeks ago anyway, we thought we'd reenact the old scene. To my surprise a fence had been put up around the Merlion! That is progress in Singapore for you. 

Can you spot the differences? Which one is better?

I am not sure what kind of bribery or threaths were involved with making the picture below (most likely ice cream and/or the withdrawal of pocket money) but this one is not my favourite. No one is doing any bunny ears or photobombs in the back. That is just not realistic! Just after this was made the heavens broke, and the umbrella that Linde is holding proved completely futile to protect us from the cats and dogs dropping from the sky. That too is Singapore. Getting close to six years in, we still love it here. Rain or shine, old and new.