Indonesia’s Soybean Products: Tempe, Tahu, Oncom and more

Indonesia’s Soybean Products: Tempe, Tahu, Oncom and more

Jakarta’s local food takes you into a newer definition of deliciousness. From savory to sweet and everything in between, the street food in Jakarta is infused by millions of tastes from all over Indonesia. Soybean is one of Indonesian’s staple that you can find in many Jakarta food. You might have never seen these foods before, but once you try them, you’ll wonder how you’ve ever lived without him.

We’ve gathered all the basic information on 5 delicious foods made from soybean: how to make them, and how to eat them! You can find these food products almost everywhere in Jakarta, whether as a main course or a side dish. Have you tried all of these products yet? You definitely should.

1. Tempe

Tempe
Tempe

What is tempe, how are they made?

Basically, tempe is made of soybean that has been mixed with yeast, wrapped in the leaf from a banana or the jati tree, and then left to be fermented for at least 24 hours. Tempe is known internationally (especially in the vegan community) as a substitution for meat because it is high in protein and vitamin B12. However, tempe has always been known to Indonesian as good old comfort food, made by our loved ones.

How do I eat tempe?

There is rarely just one version of anything in Jakarta. Every Indonesian region usually has their takes on foods, making their version unique and authentic. Tempe is one of those foods that taste great no matter what you make it into, so don’t be afraid to try all of them!

You can fry tempe with oil as it is and make it into tempe goreng. This kind of tempe is best eaten with a hot plate of rice with fried chicken or fried fish.

Mix the tempe in a wet flour batter, and you’ve made tempe mendoan! This kind of tempe is usually found as gorengan, which is just fried Indonesian staples that are best enjoyed with a glass of ice-cold sweet tea.

Craving for something on the sweeter side? Try tempe bacem, which is made with sweet soy sauce and Javanese sugar. This type of tempe is great when eaten with ayam bakar (grilled chicken).

2. Tahu

Tahu
Tahu

What is tahu, how are they made?

Tahu (or more commonly known as tofu) is made from boiled soybeans that are made into soymilk. The milk is then boiled and put in a container to be left to cool. Like tempe, this plant-based food is also known to be a good source of protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also a valuable plant source of iron and calcium.

How do I eat tahu?

Tahu is known to be a good friend of tempe. The two foods usually come as a package and are eaten together as a side dish to make your plate of rice and chicken extra good.

One of the popular ways to eat tahu is to fry them and eat them as they are. There are usually two kinds of tahu that are sold to be eaten as-is: tahu isi and tahu kosong. Tahu isi is made with some mix-ins on the inside (usually bean sprouts, bihun noodles, and cabai/chili), while tahu kosong is fried to ultimate crispiness without any fillings. 

The newest trend in Jakarta is tahu crispy, where the tahu is slathered in thick batter and deep-fried with all its goodness. After it’s fried, the tahu is sprinkled with BBQ powder or balado-spiced powder. It’s available on Go-jek, Grab and other food apps, too. Have a taste!

Read also : Traditional Foods You Can Find in Jakarta

3. Oncom/Tempe Gembus

Oncom/Tempe Gembus
Oncom/Tempe Gembus

What is oncom, how are they made?

Remember how tahu is made with the milk of boiled soybeans? Well, after it’s strained, the remains of the beans can be made into oncom/tempe gembus. The remains of the soybeans are mixed with remains of peanuts (that have gone through the same process) and then mixed and fermented, just like tempe. It’s a good mixture between tempe and tahu, so you can get the best of both worlds.

How do I eat oncom?

Oncom is a really popular food in Jakarta, originating as a local food from West Java. Usually, locals eat oncom after it is fried like tempe, and eaten as a side dish for your usual lunch or dinner.

Oncom is also the filling for comro, yet another fried snack eaten by locals. A more creative way to eat oncom is to make it a mix-in for your soup, like laksa. 

4. Kembang Tahu

Kembang Tahu
Kembang Tahu

What is kembang tahu, how are they made?

Taking a break from savory food, soybeans can also be made into food to satisfy some sweet tooths. Kembang tahu is jellied soymilk, made into a sweet and filling dessert that you can enjoy.

Some vendors also sell a dried version of kembang tahu also known as tofu skin so you don’t have to make it from scratch. Dried tofu skin is usually made with not much flavor, so you can turn it into a savory dish, too. You can find the texture and consistency that matches the taste that you want to try. 

How do I eat kembang tahu?

Kembang tahu is usually served as an afternoon snack or dessert, a delicious option for the whole family. Adding sugar when boiling keeping tahu, it is then served with a sweet sauce made from gula Jawa, ginger and pandan leaves.

If you want to, you can also enjoy this dessert with a tall glass of cold soymilk. The milk will act as a refreshing factor, as well as elevating the flavor of soy!

The food you can find in Jakarta is as diverse as its people and culture. Whether you’re looking for a snack, side dish, or main course, from savory to sweet, from hot to cold, you will find many food options made of soy. With our guide on the most popular food made from soy, we hope you can try each of them to enjoy the very best taste of Jakarta. Wherever you go to Jakarta, food adventures await!

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