KEZIA LAKSMONO WRITES – I never thought that leaving my home country would make me more aware of food’s importance in my life story or identity. I see now, though, that the food which brings us back to our childhood represents more than just a taste. It is an extension of everything that we are: our personal story, our heritage, our community, our mother. It is simply a taste of home.

So, it makes sense that oftentimes we get those mighty cravings for the foods of our homelands. In some cases, we try to salvage these cravings by cooking them, and in others, we get care packages from home – arguably, this has got to be one of the best homesickness cures. Wouldn’t you agree?

When that first taste kicks in, we’re transported back to our parents’ kitchen and vivid memories of our childhoods start to arise. Sometimes, my flashbacks will be so vivid that they leave me shaken.

The one dish that I always long for is the traditional tempeh goreng from Indonesia, which translates to “friend tempeh”. It is a fermented soybean cake that has been widely used and celebrated across our country’s culinary landscape as a food staple. Unlike tofu, the beans that make up the dish are left whole, which then gives tempeh a lovely texture, while the fermentation gives it a rich flavor that livens up any meal. Some foreigners have come across it in Bali, but it is also gaining in popularity as people look for meat-free alternatives.

So, while fried tempeh is a way of life for an Indonesian like me, in some parts of the world it is just starting to become the lifestyle craze that it deserves to be – especially true for those who follow a plant-based diet and therefore appreciate this cultured soy-based protein. Whether used in any salad or rice bowl or as extra protein to your sandwich, fried tempeh is incredibly versatile!

What’s more, fried tempeh is tremendously healthy and can help with: Weight loss; prevention of some illnesses, thanks to nutrients; lowered cholesterol and hypertension; and even slowing of the aging process.

To me, tempeh goreng is an extension of all things meaningful. It is not just food, but a representation of my nationalist feelings toward Indonesia. I quite enjoy its evolution as a fusion dish, but its origins matter to me even more.  I’m realizing that the farther away I go, the more I crave the taste of home.

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