Rabu, 09 Januari 2008



Thou art a scholar; let us therefore eat and drink.
~ William Shakespeare (1623/1936)

In the past, if someone asks “ What is your most favorite things?” I used to say “food!”

My answer is ridiculous! But it doesn’t mean I want to show people that I dont care about other important things in life, nor to show that in my mind it’s only meal, what kinda meal that I will have for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Talk about food; West Sumatra cuisine is one of my favorite cuisines and I am fond of, but there is other cuisine I am fond of that hardly found in other places of Indonesian archipelago named sego kucing or cat rice, that is only can find in Yogyakarta–central Java. For those who never been to Yogyakarta might think about the cuisine is for feeding cat. Sego Kucing or Cat-rice is made from steam rice and sauté of tempe.

Any visitor to an Indonesian market or dinner table will almost certainly come across tempe, though wonder what on earth it really is. Closely resembling a Camembert cheese in colour and texture with a mushroom-like aroma, tempe is in fact one of the world's first soybean foods. It is composed of cooked soybeans that have been fermented through by an edible fungus which, when mature (like a cheese) becomes an attractive and aromatic white cake suitable for a variety of uses in hundreds of local dishes.
Now, research in food science and nutrition has shown tempe to be unique amongst vegetarian foods, and already popular among vegetarians in the USA and Australia. An ever popular and versatile ingredient in Indonesian dishes, it represents a food that has evolved in the archipelago and within Indonesia has become synonymous with Indonesian traditional cookery. In the sense of 'as American as apple pie', tempe is the soul of village food to the Javanese.
What is Tempe and why is it so special?

Tempe is a fermented soy bean product originally made by Central Javanese people through fermentation with Rhizopus species. Although there is evidence of earlier fermentation of soy, tempe had appeared in the Central Javanese food pattern in the 1700s.

Through its extensive use in main meals and snacks, it has led to people in the Jakarta having the highest known soy intake in the world and accordingly of the isoflavones contained.This provides an unique opportunity to consider the health effects of tempe (and soy), both beneficial and potentially toxic. Apparent health benefits are bowel health, protection against cardiovascular disease, certain cancers (e.g. breast and prostate) and menopausal health (including bone health).

Protection against cardiovascular disease

The result showed that tempe feeding lowered the cholesterol level in the tempe group, possibly due to the high content of cholesterolreleased from the liver through the bile (M Astuti, unpubl.data, 1997). According to Gorcia Hermosilla et al. free fatty acids in tempe inhibited the action of hydroxymethyl glutaryl CoA reductase, an enzyme which is responsible for cholesterol synthesis in the liver.

Hypocholesterolaemic properties of tempe in human subjects were studied by Astuti et al.In a feeding-trial of instant tempe-formula on 24 (8 male, 16female) volunteers. Each respondent drank the formula daily for 3 months.

The lipid profile, malondyaldehyde (MDA) and uric acid levels were measured in serum of each respondent as baseline before the feeding trial, every month during the feeding and 2 months after the feeding trial. Malondyaldehyde is one of the products from the decomposition of fatty acid in lipid peroxidation. It is able to reach cell and tissue, thus resulting in cell damage. It does not only damage lipid molecules, but also non-lipid biomolecules, such as protein and nucleic acid.

Damaged nucleic acid, especially in the nucleus, may cause gene mutation, which is able to promote cancer. It showed that during the feeding trial, total cholesterol decreased 8.6% and 10.25% in males and females, prespectively, but then increased in the same level of initial stage for both male and female respondents after 2 months ofnot consuming tempe formula.

The LDL cholesterol levels decreased 12% in male and 9.67% in female respondents and then increased 9% in males and 15.5% in females after2 months of not consuming the tempe formula. Lipid peroxidation which is expressed as MDA decreased 23% for both male and female respondents and then increased 13% inmales and 15% in females after 2 months of not consuming the tempe formula.

Uric acid level did not differ from baseline in the male group, but decreased about 14% in the female group, then increased in the same level of initial stage after 2 months of not consuming the tempe formula. Even though this was an uncontrolled study, these results are encouraging.
The effect of tempe on Superoxide Dismutase enzyme (SOD) modulation was studied by Astuti, by using 45 copper-deficient male Wistar rats which were divided into five groups of nine rats and were fed with diets of different tempe concentrations (0, 25, 50, 75 and 100%, respectively) for 45 days.

Copper is known as an important trace mineral acting as a cofactor of SOD. Theactivity of SOD and lipid peroxidation were evaluated from the serum. The highest inhibition of SOD against lipid peroxidation and the lowest level of MDA were found in rats on the 100% tempe diet as a source of protein and copper. Copper as a component of SOD plays a dual role in SOD activity, as a cofactor as well as regulator.

Possible role of tempe in cancer prevention
Recently, attention has also focused on the potential role of soybean products in reducing cancer risk. Asian countries have among the lowest rates of common cancers in Westernsociety such as breast, prostate and colon cancer. (Kiriakidis S, et al 1996)

The protective effect of a diet high in soy may partly explain it. An epidemiological study on colorectal cancer in Japan found that frequent consumption of soybeans and tofu markedly decreased both rectal and colon cancer risk. Demonstrated that tempe, specially its glucolipids, inhibits the proliferation of tumour cell in mice. Indonesians are known as the largest soybean-consumers, especially in the form of tempe and tofu, in the South-East Asian countries. However, epidemiological studies relating to tempe con-sumption and the prevalence of cancer, particularly in Indonesia, have not yet been conducted.

Menopausal symptoms

There are studies reporting a lower incidence of menopausal symptoms in Asian populations consuming high levels of soy, such as Japan, China, Korea and Indonesia. These oestrogenic compounds may play an important role in the prevention of menopausal symptoms.

Trials to date have not been properly designed to determine whether these compounds act similarly to oestrogen in alleviating menopausal symptoms. There is no epidemiological data specifically on M Astuti, A Melial, FS Dalais and ML Wahlqvist
The long use of tempe at all stages of life, without recognised adverse effects, suggests it is relatively safe at the levels of intake seen in Central Java. However, further research on soy, both fermented and non-fermented, in Central Java should yield more insight into the mechanisms of action and the safe ranges of intake ( Mary Astuti, et al, 2000).

Tempe begins with whole soybeans, which are softened by soaking and dehulled, then partly cooked. Specialty tempehs may be made from other types of beans, wheat, or may include a mixture of beans and whole grains.
A mild acidulent, usually vinegar, may be added in order to lower the pH and create a selective environment that favors the growth of the tempeh mold over competitors .A fermentation starter containing the spores of fungus Rhizopus oligosporus is mixed in. The beans are spread into a thin layer and are allowed to ferment for 24 to 36 hours at a temperature around 30°C (86°F). In good tempeh, the beans are knit together by a mat of white mycelia.
Under conditions of lower temperature, or higher ventilation, gray or black patches of spores may form on the surface -- this is not harmful, and should not affect the flavor or quality of the tempeh. This sporulation is normal on fully mature tempe. A mild ammonia smell may accompany good tempeh as it ferments, but it should not be overpowering. In Indonesia, ripe tempeh (two or more days old) is considered a delicacy.
In the kitchen, tempe is often prepared by cutting it into pieces, soaking in brine or salty sauce, and then frying. Cooked tempe can be eaten alone, or used in chili, stir frys, soups, salads, sandwiches, and stews. Recent popular vegan cookbooks, such as Isa Chandra Moskowitz's "Vegan with a Vengeance", have come up with more creative ways of cooking tempe, using it as a vegetarian substitution for breakfast meats, such as sausage and bacon.
Tempe has a complex flavor that has been described as nutty, meaty, and mushroom-like. Tempe freezes well, and is now commonly available in many western supermarkets as well as in ethnic markets and health food stores. Tempe performs well in a cheese grater, after which it may be used in the place of ground beef (as in tacos).
When thin sliced and deep fried in oil, tempe obtains a crispy golden crust while maintaining a soft interior - its sponge-like consistency make it an excellent base for all marinades. Dried tempe (whether cooked or raw) provides an excellent stew base for vegetarian traveller. While some claim that tempe should not be eaten raw, others have done so without ill effect for many years. For the Thanksgiving holiday, tempe (as dark meat) and tofu (as white) may each be thick-sliced and baked with a standard dressing/stuffing preparation to provide a vegetarian alternative to turkey meat.

Types of tempe
tempe bongkrèk
made from or with coconut press cake
tempe bosok (busuk)
rotten tempe, used in small amounts as a flavouring
tempe gembus
made from okara1
tempe gódhóng
tempe made in banana leaves
tempe goreng
deep-fried tempe
tempe mendoan
raw-fried tempe
tempe kedelai
simply tempe, made from soybeans
tempe murni
tempe made in plastic wrap (lit. pure soybean cake)
tempe oncom
also onchom; made from peanut press cake; orange color; Neurospora sitophila
1Okara or soy pulp is a white or yellowish pulp consisting of insoluble parts of the soybean which remain in the filter sack when pureed soybeans are filtered in the production of soy milk. It is low in fat, high in fiber, and also contains protein, calcium, iron, and riboflavin. Okara contains 76 to 80% moisture, 20 to 24% solids and 3.5 to 4.0% protein. On a dry weight basis okara contains 24% protein, 8 to 15% fats,and 12 to 14.5% crude fiber. It contains 17% of the protein from the original soybeans

After I moved to Greece, I have adapted to Greek cuisine. Luckily I dont have problems to enjoy my new country cuisine because Greek cuisine is simple and delicious, the flavor comes from the purity and freshness ingredients.

Greek cuisine also has many variety of soy bean, such as Fasolia Salata, Fasolia soup and fasolada ( dried bean soup).

Indeed, I live far from Indonesia, I still can enjoy eat tempe while I am in Greece. Moreover, you can easily find some Asian foods in Athens. For instance, you can buy tempe which is imported from Holland at Asian Market in Ambelokipi area.

One thing that I concern is about the product rights (patent) of tempe which is originally made in Indonesia. However, I found out that tempe is the product rights of USA, Japan, and Germany instead of Indonesia.

ConclusionDiet as a part of lifestyle plays an important role in maintaining nutrition and health. Tempe is considered as a good source of protein, vitamin B12, antioxidants, phytochemical and other bioactive substances. Numerous studies to date strongly indicate that soybean-based tempe offers positive nutritional and health benefits. However, the recommendation of tempe consumption should be based on and supported by scientific experiments which show that tempe has indeed specific beneficial effects in human health. Continued multidisciplinary scientific research will provide a better understanding and further knowledge on the identification of the beneficial components and mechanisms of action, function, nutritional and health aspects of tempe. Furthermore, contribution from nutrition and the food-science community from all over the world to develop tempe from a variety of legumes as a raw material that are nutritious, tasty, acceptable and affordable will help us meet the challenge of health for all towards the 21st century.

Megara, 1 July 2007

1. Wikipedia
2. Mary Astuti, et all, Tempe, a nutritious and healthy food from Indonesia, Asia Pacific Jurnal Clinic Nutrition, 2000.
3. Kiriakidis S, et al, Fatty acid ester of sitosterol 3 beta glicoside from soybeans and tempe (fermented soybeans) as antiproliferative substances, J Clin Biochem Nutrition, 1996.
4. Logue A. W, The Psychology of Eating and Drinking, Brunner-Routledge,
New York, 2004.

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