Figure 4. Manufacturing process of natto. Source: Ref. 10.

origin. The central and east Java areas of Indonesia are still the major tempeh producers. For that reason, several scientists thought that tempeh probably originated in these areas. Besides these areas, it is produced and consumed in other parts of Indonesia (1,9,24).

Countries of Consumption

Tempeh is relatively unknown in surrounding countries such as Thailand, China, and Japan, where soybeans form an important part of the diet. Tempeh is produced in small quantities and consumed by immigrants from Indonesia in Malaysia, Surinam, Canada, and the Netherlands. It is becoming a popular food for many vegetarians in the United States. Tempeh experienced a sudden rise in popularity in the United States in 1975, although it was studied extensively and known in the United States as early as 1950 (25). In 1971, soybeans and the fermented food tempeh were introduced into the Republic of Zambia to improve the nutritional status of that country. Tempeh was introduced recently into Sri Lanka through trainees who received special training in production and processing technologies of tempeh in Indonesia.


The essential steps for traditional preparation of tempeh are presented in Figure 5. At first, the soybeans are soaked and cooked for 30 min in boiling water to loosen the soybean seed coats. The seed coats of cooked soybeans are hand removed or rubbed with feet to loosen the seed coats and washed with water to separate beans from seed coats. The dehulled beans are again soaked overnight to be hydrated and to allow bacterial acid fermentation. The soaked, dehulled beans are cooked again, drained, cooled, and inoculated with a starter culture or an inoculum from

Whole soybean 1


Dehulled 1

Soaked overnight

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