soybean field

Traditional Indonesian Soyfood Tempeh is Poised to Take its Place in the Global Spotlight

As we reported, Tempeh was highlighted at the 8th Southeast Asia Soy Foods Seminar and Trade Show in Bali from May 22-23.  The trade show was sponsored and organized by USSEC.


Tempeh is a locally-produced, fermented soy food consumed by millions of Indonesians.  Tempeh’s production traces its roots to 18th century Indonesia.  Whole soybeans, sometimes mixed with another grain such as rice or millet, are fermented into a rich cake of soybeans with a smoky or nutty flavor to produce a chunky, tender soybean cake.  Tempeh can be marinated and grilled and added to soups, casseroles, and chili.  Annual national tempeh consumption is seven kilograms per person.

Tempeh makers from the Indonesian Tempeh Forum (FTI) gathered in Jakarta this week calling for the government to designate June 6 as National Tempeh Day, a designation that could promote tempeh to the world as a healthy soy product of Indonesia.  According to FTI chairman Made Astawan, this date was chosen because it is the birthday of Indonesia’s first president, who often referred to Indonesia as “Bangsa Tempeh,” translated as “Nation of Tempeh,” in his speeches.  June 6 is also the date on which Rumah Tempeh Indonesia, the country’s first premier learning center for tempeh production, was established in 2012.  Indonesia has previously succeeded in asking the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to include tempeh as a food item to be granted a Codex, a FAO and WHO food standard.  A Codex is awarded after a series of eight steps; Indonesia is currently on the fifth step and expects tempeh to be granted this status in 2015.
With a population of over 240 million, fifth in size worldwide, soybean consumption in Indonesia is among the highest in Southeast Asia at 25 lbs per capita, primarily in the form of tempeh and tofu.  The Rumah Tempeh project is part of a larger USSEC program to stimulate growth in consumption by improving production facilities and quality of tempeh and tempeh products in order to raise the image of tempeh as a safe and healthy food.  In 2012, Indonesia was America’s third largest customer for U.S. soybeans importing over 1.7 million metric tons (63 million bushels) with a value of approximately $1.7 billion.