Tempeh Bonkrek- the sequel

–> DONT TRY THIS AT HOME! <– (seriously!!) and read THIS for the background story.

I was not going to leave Java without a taste of tempeh Bonkrek. The tempeh of death. But it seemed too hard to find (in the end i got a contact. But that’s for another trip) so i opted for DIY bonkrek. I even served it to others, in all my reckless passionate enthusiasm.

Some week ago i visited a coconut oil workshop, where i got a bag of freshly pressed and shredded coconut. A wonderful experience! The same evening i put the coconut in water for an overnight soak and first fermentation/acidification. The sour smell in the morning assures me that everything goes well and safe (low ph ->less bacterial growth). After boiling, inoculating and incubating in perforated bags  (japp i travel with a tempeh making kit in my backpack) -the process seems to go perfectly well: the loose shreds become a heat producing, solid cake and the smell is lightly sour, but also sweet en sends a reminder of what coconut cream heaven must be like. -> It was a warning! <-

Next day i took  the tempeh to a restaurant where i was meeting some friends over a game of cards and more delicious tempeh “mendoang”. The cook deep fried my weird tempeh and served it to us. It was horrible. The coconut just absorbed the endlessly reused frying oil, i can still taste it in the back of my throat- we all just took a tiny bite. Good for us. Not to hurt the cook’s feelings, who probably meant to do us a favour, we hid the pieces and threw them away later.Which was a good thing.

The remaining slab of tempeh bonkrek travelled with me from Yogyakarta to Bandung, where i unwrapped it (hearing for the 100st time “you really like tempeh!”) and noticed it started to turn yellow! The yellowness is an indicator that the toxin toxoflavin is being produced, which in its turn is an indicator of bonkrekic acid production, since the two are assumed to be produced together by the same bacteria. Bonkrekic acid can kill you within 4 hours after consumption.

It could be possible that toxoflavin is produced without bonkrekic acid, and though toxoflavin is not as lethal as the latter, you don’t want to eat that either. Maybe the gratings were not pressed enough, since the bacteria needs an oil content over 20% to produce the toxin. Luckily there was no yellowness (thus no toxin) at the time of consumption. I feel healthy and my friends are not complaining. The remaining tempeh of death is now hopefully destroyed.




Tempe Keripik


Perfect for the Indonesian hot climate, this typical Javanese tempeh snack doesn’t need to be refrigerated and has a longer shelf life than fresh tempeh.

Tempe kripik, also written tempe keripik, is basically just crisps made of tin sliced tempeh, dipped in seasoned water or a tapioca batter. During my short visit to Malang, known for high quality tempeh and a large production of tempeh kripik, I was lucky to visit a beautiful, joyful and very hard working family of kripik friers. Malang is known to have a “milder” climate due to it’s altitude. That’s why good tempeh is made there and apples can grow! In the city of Malang, there is a small neighbourhood, Sanan, that is the centre for tempeh kripik. In the narrow streets with colourful murals, rows of rooms and storages, running children, cats, the inevitable scooters, tempeh kripik is being fermented, fried, sold and distributed by numerous proud family businesses.






There are several ways of making tempeh kripik. Through pictures I’ll show how this family works, but later I’ll write a recipe for making your own tempeh kripik.

It’s too bad I didn’t had an interpreter with me this time, since this family and me had few words in common- but sharing work, laughter and a meal doesn’t require much words!


left: Piles of tapioca flour and palm oil in the neighbouring storehouse

Under: soybeans soaking, dehulling, cooking, draining and cooling down.








Once cooled down, the beans are inoculated with a liquid inoculum with tapioca based starter and homegrown spores. The beans are then packed tightly in perforated tubes and incubate while hanging on racks to create a perfectly round shape.

The fully fermented sausages are sliced so thin you can almost look through them. These pictures show the traditional way of making slices, though this family even has a motor driven slicer.








Tempeh kripik is mostly fried in a tapioca batter. Other ingredients are onion, egg, salt and spices (bumbu bumbu) like lime leaf. Although this is not specified on packages, the batter (and most food you can get in Indonesia) contains even a commercial spice mix (in this case Knorr Beefpowder) containing msg, artificial flavourings and animal produkts. Totally unnecessary!

And now the heart of the kripik workshop: frying. Palm oil is heated in large wok-like skillets on a gas stove. These women (and many more) work wholes days, every day and still do their work proud and with joy (it seemed to this passing stranger). Every single slice of tempeh gets a double dip and a double fry manually. Imagine the amount of work! I was dipping and frying here for two hours, which exhausted and overheated me. These are strong women! Eat your kripik with respect.







After frying the slices in a small quantities, and separating the sticky ones (in skillet on the right, left picture), a bigger amount gets a second fry (skillet on the left, left picture). After cooling down, all the slices are packed carefully one by one by the other part of the family. The bags are sealed by melting the plastic with a candle.






And to the shop!




hairy hearts

Valentine’s day- who cares? Not me.

But if you do- for the love of tempeh- here is the ultimate Valentine’s tempeh- tric: incubate your favourite tempeh in silicone heart shaped bakingmoulds. Also heart shaped cheese making moulds can be used. I covered them with a tray. You can use whatever you want- but please leave out those one-time-use ziplocks.

If you don’t care: good- you can cut the crap and just eat heart shape tempeh whenever you want!

love reusable moulds – hate disposable plastic


Picture above: cut in half tempeh hearts. The yellow one is with sweet lupin (green pieces are just unripe lupin seeds), the other are a buckwheat-lupin mixture.

Pictures below: half fermented lupin/oat/buckwheat in cheesemould, tempehmoons in silicone baking forms (shows how lupin colonises much faster than buckwheat), fried tempeh hearts. a tiny little bit burnt. as usual. do it better.


Tempeh Bongkrek or the hunt for the forbidden ferment

Not the real tempeh- but irresistible nevertheless, because of it’s status of being prohibited. The forbidden fruit in de garden of FermentEden. Though this fruit might be forbidden for a good reason.

Tempeh bongkrek, a weird and dangerous delight, made of fermented coconut press cake, is only produced in Java, Indonesia. The coconut press cake, a byproduct of coconut milk and oil production is left to ferment after inoculation with the same mold fungus used for classical tempeh, Rhizopus Oligosporus, often by reusing banana leaves from tempeh production.

Consumption of tempeh bongkrek has led to hundreds of lethal poisonings, which lead to it’s prohibition by the Indonesian government in 1988. Researchers found that all the poisonous samples were contaminated with a certain bacteria (Burkholderia gladioli pathovar cocovenenans) that produces one of the strongest respirational toxins known (bongkrekic acid), able to kill within 4 hours after consumption.[1]

Mostly this, and other bacteria are outnumbered by the fast growing rhizopus oligosporus. A ph lower than 6 inhibits bacterial growth and the production of bongkrekic acid. Therefore tempeh, when made the right way with proper acidification (by a first fermentation as is done in Indonesia, or by adding vinegar as is done in the western world) is a safe food. Unfavourable conditions like a temperature too high or too low, acidity too low (ph>6) or too much moisture, stimulate the growth of bacteria, which in this case originates from the badly handled coconut press cake. The reason why only tempeh bongkrek contains the poisonous bongrekic acid, is because the bacteria is found to produce the toxin where there is a high content of specific types of fatty acids, found in coconut. Soybean tempeh, even when the bacteria is present, doesn’t contain the toxin. A traditional way of avoiding bongkrekic acid is by adding shredded oxalis sepium leaf to acidify the coconut pulp. This results in a green tempeh, which looks weird and and is not very popular.

Luckily there is a safety check for tempeh bongkrek: along with the colourless bongkrekic acid, another, yellow toxin is produced, visible on the inside of the cake when cracked open. So yes- even in snowless Indonesia, we hear Frank Zappa’s warning.

This said- if the coconut press cake is handled well, the result should be a beautifully fermented delicacy. Favourable conditions are inoculation of the coconut pulp within 18 hours after production, hygienic and cool handling and transportation, adding 2% salt to the pulp and well pressed coconut shreds to lower the fat residue.

I ‘ve been hearing rumours of tempeh bongkrek still being produced on Java. Traditions are not easy to change, the more since it’s a cheap, tasty and efficient way of processing coconut waste.  Tempeh bongkrek “lives” on, underground, and i won’t rest before i find it.


sources, beside the rumours:

Garcia et al. (1999), “The effect of lipids on bongkrekic (Bongkrek) acid toxin production by Burkholderia cocovenenans in coconut media” in Food Additives and Contaminants, 1999, Vol. 16, No. 2, pages 63- 69

Moebius N. (2012). “Biosynthesis of the Respiratory Toxin Bongkrekic Acid in the Pathogenic Bacterium Burkholderia gladioli” in Chemistry and Biology Volume 19, Issue 9, 21 September 2012, Pages 1164-1174

Shurtleff W. & Aoyagi A. (1997), the book of tempeh, Soyinfo Center

[1] To understand how the poison works, this fantastic blogger tries to explain in layman’s terms.

Vad är tempeh?

Det är så självklart för oss men såklart inte för alla.

Tempeh är ett fascinerande livsmedel. Det kan beskrivas som en kaka av sojabönor som hålls ihop av ett svampmycel.  När svampen(Rhizopus oligosporus eller Rhizopus oryzae.) växer till förändras bönornas smak, konsistens och näringstillgänglighet . Resultatet blir gott, nyttigt och otroligt användbart. Traditionellt sett tillverkas tempeh med sojabönor som grund. Extra intressant är att tempeh också kan tillverkas av övriga baljväxter eller av spannmål. Exempelvis går det att göra tempeh på närodlade kokärtor, bondbönor, havre eller sötlupin.



Tempeh kommer ursprungligen från Indonesien och är något av en nationalrätt på ön Java. Än idag äts mycket tempeh på Java och mycket animaliskt protein ersätts på så sätt med växtbaserat protein.


Smak och näringsinnehåll

Smaken på tempeh är mild. Nötig eller jordig.  Tempeh drar lätt åt sig marinad och kan tillagas på en mängd olika sätt. Exempelvis stekas, wokas, ungsbakas,  friteras eller blandas i grytor. Beroende på vilken böna eller vilket spannmål som tempehn tillverkas på så kommer näringsinnehållet i slutprodukten att variera. Kort sagt kan man säga att innehållet av näringsämnen och mineraler kommer  att motsvara det i bönan eller spannmålet. Tillgängligheten av mineraler och näringsämnen kommer generellt att vara högre i slutprodukten. Görs tempehn på sojabönor kommer proteininnehållet vara högt. Tempeh innehåller också B-vitaminer och ett intressant faktum är att man i vissa fall har hittat B12 i tempeh. Detta tros komma av bakterien Klebsiella och den finns bara om tillverkningen av tempeh inte sker alltför sterilt.


Tillverka själv

Det är lätt att tillverka tempeh själv om man har förståelse för själva processen. Tillverkningen sker ju helt naturligt genom att en svamp växer på råvaran och det gäller att ge de rätta förutsättningarna så just den svamp vi vill ska växa kommer växa till.

Sötlupin – Framtidens gröda för livsmedel och foder?

På senare år har ett ökat intresse av lokalt producerade fodergrödor samt intresse för vegetarisk mat bidragit till ett ökat fokus på nya proteinrika grödor. Odlingen av kvävefixerande baljväxter till livsmedel spelar också en viktig roll i arbetet för att minska övergödning och miljöförstörelse orsakade av för mycket kväve.

2015 aug försökodling- rådgivarna- Råddegård, Tranemo
2015 aug försökodling- rådgivarna- Råddegård, Tranemo

Trots bra odlingsförutsättningar, är kommersiellt odlade (ekologiska) baljväxter i Sverige ett fåtal. Det pågår flera olika projekt omkring exempelvis åkerbönor och soja. De flesta av dessa projekt är centrerade omkring jordbruksområdena i Skåne och på Öland.

För att kunna producera mat som är  till 100 procent lokalproducerad, finns det ett behov av fler proteinrika grödor i svenskt jordbruk. Dessa kan då användas till både foder och livsmedel. En sådan proteinrik gröda är söt blålupin, Lupinus angustifolius. Sötlupin är släkt med den vilda lupin alla känner till, men är, till skillnad från denna, inte giftig. Dessutom är den en fantastisk proteinkälla, med upp till 33 procent protein i torkade bönor. Det är bra råvara för mat och som proteinfoder till mjölkkor. När det gäller lupin som mat för människor finns det redan sedan länge lupinbaserade matvaror i Europa men i Sverige är det fortfarande relativt okänt

Sötlupin odlas på ett fåtal ställen i Sverige idag men enbart till foder och då mest med skörd av

ogräsbekämpning är en stor utmaning vid lupinodling
ogräsbekämpning är en stor utmaning vid lupinodling

hela växten. För att kunna använda sötlupin som livsmedel behövs mer kunskap i odling och tillvaratagande av enbart lupinfrön. För att göra detta används en annan teknik med exempelvis noggrann jordbearbetning och ogrenade sorter för att få jämn mognad. För att odla lupinfrön krävs sandiga jordar med lågt pH och detta ser vi mycket av här i Västra Götaland.  

I samarbete med Hushållningssällskapet Sjuhärad organiserar vi från Så Fungy! en demoodling med olika sorters sötlupin. I slutet av säsongen, 7 oktober 2015, presenteras resultatet av demoodlingen på ett seminarium, öppet för lantbrukare och övriga intresserade. 

When fried, lupintempeh turns golden and gets a nutty flavour
When fried, lupintempeh turns golden and gets a nutty flavour