The birth of this new blog brought to mind something that has been fermenting in my archives for some time now. Tempe. I am not a big fan of tempe, which to some extent goes to explain the sad state of my complexion. In fact the first time I found some mouldy pieces in the fridge, I threw them away thinking that they had gone bad. But being newly-wed and all that I was forgiven by my husband who is really fanatical, if there is ever a word, about tempe. He loves them so much that he made it into a business!
Like everything else that he did, for example bread, croissant and chicken kiev, a lot of research went into it. Once when I was craving for keropok, he rolled up his sleeves and attacked the mackerels and other ingredients to make the keropok, only for it to turn out as keropok lekor. He had better success with tempe.
He got himself a how to do tempe book and ordered the yeast from somewhere. From then on, we invested in stainless steel pots and ladels, plastic bags and of course bags and bags of soya bean. The recipe in one hand, he stayed up all night to boil the soya beans and dry them the next morning. This is certainly a summer time job. Without the sun, it’d be impossible. He even used the hair dryer.
I didn’t have a hand in the tempe making at all as he was quite meticulous and strict about all sorts of things.
Anyway, once the yeast was mixed with the beans, he’d fill them up in small plastic bags and I was assigned the role of making small holes in the plastic bags.
Then, we’d leave them overnight in the boiler room. It was quite fascinating watching them turn into tempe. We’d check the soya bean in the plastic bags at intervals . White cotton like thingy would appear covering the beans and later when fully ripe, they would have some black patches around it. And they’d feel quite warm to the touch.
I never knew what to do with it. My husband would just cut them in small pieces, marinade them with salt and tumeric and then fry them and had them as snacks, munching in front of the tv. Later, I learnt that fried tempe tastes quite good in sambal tumis.
We then had the problem of having too much tempe in a household of only
one tempe lover. So we gave them to friends. The word spread around that there’s an awang from Terengganu making tempe in a corner of London. So we began receiving orders from the Malay and Indonesian community. Some orders came from the embassies! It was growing into quite a roaring business with the tempe fermenting quietly in our small boiler room until I had to go into hospital to deliver my second child.
Orders were coming in faster then he could deliver so, I had to cut short my hospital stay and help with HIS delivery. We had friends delivering the orders to houses and offices. We had BMW’s parked way down the street as people came to take the orders, and one quietly whispered in my ears, “ Please don’t write in the newspaper that a diplomat’s wife is distributing tempe!” Er, whaaaaat?????
“Shock, horror, drama!! Diplomats wife in sleazy tempe trade!!! “ Screamed the headlines that came to mind.
Anyway, the so called diplomat’s wife need not worry, our success also spelt our downfall. We couldn’t cope and we closed shop! But I’ll never forget those tempe making days in our small living room in a corner of London!