“This would be really good over vanilla ice cream,” my friend Anne Marie Cruz said as she munched on a handful of kering tempe, a spicy Indonesian brittle made from tempe, potatoes, and peanuts. Crunchy, garlicky, and singing with sweet spicy flavor, it’s the only way I can abide the fermented soybean noxiousness that is tempe. Abide is an understatement. I can easily polish off a $7 box of the stuff in a sitting.
We scored the highly addictive snack at OK Indo, one of the stops on a food tour of Southeast Asian Elmhurst and Himalayan Heights that I took Anne Marie, her boyfriend Brant, and their friends on for Brant’s birthday. By the time we got to the Thai-run Tea Cup Café, I’d forgotten all about the kering tempe. That is until Anne Marie ordered some durian ice cream. “You know what has to happen now,” I said taking out the package of the crunchy golden snack. The durian ice cream itself was pleasantly funky in that oniony fetid way familiar to all true durian lovers. It was even better with the kering tempe. Based on the little bit we tried, I knew the idea of a Southeast Asian sundae was worth further research. So I returned two nights later and ordered a generous serving of durian ice cream. I topped it with kering tempe, making sure to include peanuts, tempe, and fried potato.
The result was simply amazing, spicy, sweet, funky, and crunchy. Especially crunchy because the sweet and savory snack became even more brittle after chilling out atop the ice cream. Don’t like durian? Don’t worry, as Anne Marie said it’s probably great with vanilla ice cream. I wouldn’t know though as I polished off the rest of my kering tempe while writing this post.
OK Indo Food Store, 88-15 Justice Ave., Elmhurst, 718-606-0104
Tea Cup Cafe, 76-23 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 718-426-2222