Tahu and tempe bacem are another way to enjoy tofu and tempeh deliciously. They are cooked in spices and herb marinade before deep frying. And they have a delicate flavour of fragrant herbs with the sweetness of palm sugar.
These vegan dishes are usually served as a side dish along with literally any main dishes you like. And often, people enjoy them as snacks too. Well, at least my family and I do.
Originally from West Java, Bacem is now popular beyond its birthplace. Almost anyone who loves tofu and tempeh will know this dish. And it is thought that the recipe was created to preserve tofu and tempeh a little longer. Though I personally never experienced seeing the dish lying around in my household for too long once they are cooked. Because they’re so tastily moreish that we just can not stop having them.
I cook bacem mostly as a side dish. But more often than not, I end up serving them as a snack. But I don’t mind. Because tofu and tempeh are good sources of vegan protein. So they’re pretty healthy, aren’t they?
What You Need For Primary Ingredients
Needless to say, you’ll need tofu and tempeh to make bacem. Ideally, you use yellow tofu. Because it is more flavoursome. But if you can not get it, you can always make it yourself by using shop-bought extra firm tofu or making the tofu from scratch yourself.
You can take a look at my tutorial on how to make tofu and/ or yellow tofu.
As for tempeh, you can simply get a ready-made one from the shop (an Asian Chinese shop will definitely sell it), or you can try making it yourself. I have a tutorial here on how to make tempeh from scratch.
So, apart from tofu and tempeh, you will need galangal, salam leaves, palm sugar, sweet soy sauce, shallots, garlic, coriander seeds and tamarind paste.
I think most of the ingredients are pretty easy to get except the salam leaves.
Translated as Indonesian bay leaf, salam leaf actually belongs to a different family from bay leaf. And it has a distinguishably different smell. So I personally would shy away from replacing salam leaf with bay leaf. And if I really have to do it, I’d use the combination of 2 bay leaves and 3 curry leaves as the substitute for this recipe.
When it comes to tamarind paste, you can make your own paste by mixing 2 tablespoons of hot boiling water with 2 inches square of tamarind block. Leave the hot water to soften the tamarind, then break and mash it into a thick sauce. And discard the seeds if any.
Easy Way To Make Bacem
Firstly, lightly deep fry the tofu and tempeh pieces for about 2 minutes for each side. This will help seal tofu and tempeh so they won’t break easily when you cook them in the spices. Set aside.
Secondly, we have to make spice paste by grinding shallots, garlic, coriander seeds and tamarind paste into a smooth paste.
Then, pour in 2 cups of water to paste and stir it well. Then add in the galangal, salam leaves, palm sugar, and salt.
Next, place tempeh and tofu pieces in a cooking pan, and pour in the spice water. Start cooking at moderately high heat until the water starts boiling, add in the sweet soy sauce. Then turn the heat to low. Put the pan lid on and leave it to cook at low heat until all the liquid evaporates. Do take care by checking and carefully turning the tofu and tempeh pieces every now and again to ensure they all absorb the flavour evenly.
Once the water has completely gone, turn the heat off, and you can start deep-frying your tahu and tempe bacem.
The fried bacem will stay fresh in the refrigerator/ fridge for 3 days if you keep them in a well-tight lid food container.
Should you freeze the tofu and tempeh bacem, I’d suggest you don’t deep fry them after cooking them in the spices. Let them completely cool down and store them in a tight-lid food container. They keep well in the freezer for about 2 months.
When you need the bacem, take them out of the freezer the night before serving and leave them in the fridge to thaw. Deep fry them when you want to eat them.
Like anything, once they are thawed, they must not be refrozen.
Other Recipes To Enjoy With
Traditionally, tahu bacem or Tempe bacem is served along with the main dish called Gudeg. It is a dish made of jackfruit cooked in coconut milk and spices. However, now people eat these soy-based snacks with literally anything.
Thank you for checking out this recipe. I hope you’re now thinking of trying it. When you do, it will be great if you can share what you think of it in the comments below.
Thank you and all the best.
Tahu And Tempe Bacem Recipe
- Mixing bowls.
- Cooking pan
- Wooden spoon
- Frying pan
- 8 ounces tempeh
- 8 ounces pack of extra firm tofu (see the note).
- 1 inch galangal peel and bruise.
- 3-4 salam leaves see the note.
- 3.53 ounces palm sugar/ jaggery slice finely (see the note).
- ½ cup sweet soy sauce.
- 1 teaspoon salt or according to taste.
- Cooking oil to fry.
- 10 shallots.
- 7 cloves garlic.
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds.
- 3 tablespoons tamarind paste see the note.
- Cut the tofu into 8 pieces and slice tempeh thickly into 8 pieces.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and lightly deep-fry the tofu and tempeh. Take care not to let them be too dry or crispy. We just want them to slightly firm up so that they won’t break in marinate. Set aside.
- Grind all the spice paste ingredients using a pestle and mortar or a food processor until you get a smooth paste.
- Place the spice paste in a cooking pan and pour in 2 cups of water. Then add in the galangal, salaam leaves, palm sugar, sweet soy sauce and salt. Give it a good stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Next, place the tofu and tempeh pieces in the spice paste mixture. Make sure the liquid covers the tofu and tempeh. If needed, add more water.
- Turn the heat on at a moderate-high. Once the spice mixture reaches boiling point, you can turn it to low heat and cook further with the pan lid on. Carefully turn the tempeh and tofu as the spiced water reduces.
- Continue cooking at low heat with the pan lid on until all liquid evaporates.
- Your tahu and tempe bacem are readily cooked now. You can serve them right away. But they taste even better if you deep fry them just before serving. And you don’t have to deep-fry them for too long. About 2-3 minutes on each side is more than enough. Unless, of course, you want a crispy bacem.
- You can use the extra firm white tofu as it is. I like my yellow tofu because they’re more flavoursome. You can make the yellow tofu from scratch or just make the yellow tofu using the shop-bought tofu. I have them both covered in this post on how to make tofu.
- Salam leaves, which are called Indonesian bay leaves, are actually a different family from ordinary bay leaves. If you find it difficult to get salam leaves, I’d suggest just skip them. I don’t recommend substituting with ordinary bay leaves because their fragrance is totally different. They are more suitable for Mediterranean cooking, not Asian cooking.
- If you can’t get hold of palm sugar/ jaggery, you can substitute it with dark soft brown sugar or dark muscovado sugar.
- Tamarind paste can be pricey and difficult to find, so you can just use a tamarind block. Cut some tamarind (about 2 inches square), and cover it with hot boiling water. Leave it to soften, and discard the tamarind seeds before using the juice.
Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.