How Tempeh is made in Indonesia

As a Tempeh maker, I have often wondered about how tempeh is made in Indonesia, and how much it differs from the way we make it in the states. I stumbled upon a CBS News slideshow of images from inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factory,and I was instantly hit with the vast similarities and the few differences in our own Tempeh making here in Austin, TX. 

I have added a few of our photos as a side-by-side comparison. The Health Department here does seem to be a little stricter on us, than departments in Indonesia are on them. 😉

How Tempeh is Made; A look into authentic tempeh production.

Cleaning & Cooking:

Traditional Indonesian methods of Tempeh making involve cracking, dehulling and washing soybeans. This can take place in large wash bins, deep sinks, or in the river. We like to use a sink, although a river might be a bit more environmentally friendly.

Jakarta Post soybean washing

 image is from the Jakarta Post

After washing, we soak the beans then boil them until just soft.

Inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factoy 3 CBS

All Ed Wray/Getty Images photos are from CBS Inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factory

CBS Inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factory

Inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factory Photo 4 CBS

Inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factory 9 CBS

Drying & Inoculating:

The beans are laid out to dry, then inoculated with the Rhizopus spore. In Indonesia they often grow this spore on cassava or cassava starch. Here in the states, it is common to grow it on rice.

Inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factory 7 CBSGarbanzostarter

Bagging, Sealing & Fermenting:

Inside an Indonesian Tempeh factory 8 CBS

Some Tempeh is still fermented in banana leaves, however many Tempeh makers even in Indonesia have switched to using plastic bags.

Inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factoy 6 CBS

Inside an Indonesian Tempeh Factory 5 CBS20131230_180034

The picture on the left blows my mind, a worker is manually heat-sealing bags of soybeans over a candle. On the right, Paul is using a foot pedaled heat sealer in our commercial kitchen.

CBS Inside an Indonesian Tempeh FactoryTempeh on Trays

This man is carrying a tray of fermenting Tempeh, it looks like an amazing balancing act to me. I thought our trays were a bit precarious, but it is nothing by comparison!

indonesiatempehTempeh Incubating

Left photo is from NPRs ‘Journey to Java’

Indonesia is the perfect temperature for tempeh making, and as you can see on the left, it allows them to ferment almost out in the open.

Here in the states we recreate the temperature and humidity using commercial incubators, like the one you see on the right.

Some shops in the states choose to pasteurize their Tempeh after it is done incubating, this process allows Tempeh to be shelf stable in the refrigerator for long periods of time. However, it also tends to remove a large portion of the mycelium which can lead to a bitter flavor.

A lot of ‘local’ Tempeh shops around the U.S. like to sell Tempeh frozen as a means to preserve shelf life, without harming the live cultures.

In Indonesia Tempeh is made from soybeans, but it is possible to make Tempeh out of almost any bean. Here in the U.S., depending on what part of the country you are in, you could find Tempeh made with fava beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas or lupins. It is also common to see other grains or seeds added in, like flax or chia seeds.

For awesome ways to prepare Tempeh, check out our recipe page!



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