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Jakarta Post

Noerhakim: Master of tempeh

Mon, March 16, 2020   /   06:00 pm
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    Tempe artisan Noerhakim, better known as Hakim, sits in front of piles of soybeans at his home in Singaraja, Buleleng regency, Bali. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    Hakim uses imported soybeans from the United States to make 100 kilograms of tempeh every day. He sells the tempeh to regular customers and also distributes them to a local market. JP/ Anggara Mahendra.

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    Hakim removes floating soybeans during the boiling process. These are of poor quality and will not be used to make tempeh. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    The boiled soybeans are left overnight to reduce their acidity levels. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    Hakim runs the business with his wife, with whom he has two children. His wife sells the tempeh Hakim produced at a nearby market. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    Hakim rubs the cooked soybeans with a moldy hibiscus leaf, which is rich in the rhizopus olihosporus fungus, during the fermentation process. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    The Rhizopus olihosporus fungus triggers the rapid growth of mold and mycelium on the soybeans. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    Hakim also provides traditional, environmentally friendly packaging by wrapping the tempeh in banana leaves. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    The tempeh Hakim produces comes in various sizes: 500 grams, 800 grams and 1.1 kilograms. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    Hakim enjoys a plate of fried tempeh while working. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

Anggara Mahendra

Noerhakim, better known as Hakim, believes that tempeh can get “upset” if not treated right. Hakim said that if he failed to mix the yeast properly, the soybeans would feel upset and turn into tempeh that is easily spoiled.

If he does not pack the soybeans properly, the yeast would grow unevenly during the fermentation process and result in poor quality tempeh.

But most of the time, Hakim manages to get everything right and ends up with tasty tempeh. After all, he a fourth-generation tempehmaker.

His great-grandfather made tempeh in Madura, East Java, and Hakim’s grandfather continued the tradition when the family moved to Bali.

Hakim grew up watching his grandfather and father making tempeh and became involved in the family business in 1998. Now, Hakim manages his own tempeh business, which produces 100 kilograms of tempeh every day.

He still does most of the tempeh-making process, starting with peeling and splitting the soybeans with a milling machine.

Hakim then boils the soybeans and leaves them overnight to reduce their acidity levels. In the morning, the soybeans are boiled again before going through the fermentation process.

Hakim uses imported soybeans from the United States, noting its superior quality. In terms of price, the imported soybeans cost Rp 6,250 (43 US cents) per kilogram, slightly higher than the price of local soybeans at Rp 6,000 per kg. 

According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), Indonesia imported 2.58 million tons of soybeans in 2018, with a majority (2.52 million tons) coming from the US.

Indonesia’s tempeh and tofu industry, which needs around 2 million tons of soybeans annually, relies heavily on imported soybeans as the country can only produce 500,000 tons of soybeans per year. [yps]