Not Just an Ordinary Food, Tempe Goes To the World as A Culture From Indonesia

Tempe was officially proposed as one of the nominees for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) by several organizations of Tempe lovers, such as Indonesian Tempe Forum, Nutrition and Food Experts Society of Indonesia, The Association of Indonesian Tofu Tempe Producers Cooperatives (Gapoktindo), Central Java Provincial Government, and Tempe craftsmen in various areas. This is not the first time tempe take a step to go into the world, Tempe’s journey has started in 2014.

It was begun in a seminar of National Tempe and Soybeans held by the Indonesian Tempe Forum together with the Nutrition and Food Experts Society of Indonesia where the results of the discussion in the seminar are the agreement of tempe that would be brought to the world to become a cultural heritage from Indonesia. Various efforts ranging from holding Focus Group Discussion to fundraising were carried out from 2015 to 2016.

The journey of tempe then continued in 2017, together with the Provincial Governments of Central Java, East Java, West Java, and the Special Region of Yogyakarta, tempe was successfully designated as an Indonesian Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia.

The next Tempe’s trip in 2018, tempe was prepared to go to UNESCO. Although in the end the intangible cultural heritage proposed by the Indonesian government to UNESCO was gamelan musical instrument, and the journey of tempe is still being pursued to this year.

One thing to remember in the journey of tempe is that tempe is a culture that must be preserved, not tempe as an object or food. To Twibbonize News, the team involved in proposing tempe to become a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage this tear, such as Indonesian Tempe Forum and Nutrition and Food Experts Society of Indonesia, told how wide the point of view of tempe in Javanese culture which has spread throughout the region in Indonesia.

During the process of Tempe as a nominee of ICH by UNESCO, a representative from the MSME empowerment and training department of Indonesian Tempe Forum, Muhammad Ridha, was involved in the process of collecting document data to be submitted. His testimony traces the authenticity of the tempe culture that has developed brought him to the Bantul, Gunung Kidul, and surrounding areas.

Let’s go into the history of tempe to understand what is meant by tempe as a culture.

Indonesian communities in the 14th to 16th centuries, such as groups of farmers who grew rice as a source of food for the community generally made tegalalang rice terrace as a plot of land next to the rice fields planted with beans which can be used as a side dish for rice they produce.

“They have combined methods of planting in the field to meet their carbohydrate and protein needs. This is Javanese culture,” said the Deputy Chair for the Consumer Development of the Indonesian Tempe Forum, Ibnu Edy Wiyono.

Tempe is also often mentioned in one of the most complete culinary references, called Serat Centhini, one of the greatest literary works in New Javanese literature which contains records from the Javanese kingdoms with descriptions of life in the 16th century.

The culture of eating and producing tempeh was also carried away by the Javanese migration and transmigration process over time. It makes tempe no longer belong to only Javanese people as it had spread all around Indonesia.

“Wherever tempe goes, it is Indonesia who brings it. This is the definition of tempe as Indonesian culture,” said Secretary-General of the Indonesian Tempe Forum, Dadi Hidayat Maskar.

Tempe in Indonesian culture is reflected in several traditions and rituals, one of which is as a side dish that must be served with ‘tumpeng rice’. Tempe as its side dish symbolized “pitu” which in Javanese means “pitulungan”, this means an expression to ask for “help” to the Almighty in certain ceremonies.

Besides that, have you ever heard about tempe bacem? In Yogyakarta or the Klaten area of Indonesia, this kind of tempe dish has a sweet taste, which is interpreted as happiness. In the splice tradition or cooperation activities that are usually carried out in rural areas in Central Java, East Java, and Yogyakarta when there are residents who want to build houses, tempe is served in this tradition is usually with sticky rice. For the community, sticky rice itself means stickiness. A representative from the Nutrition and Food Experts Society of Indonesia, Khoirul Anwar, said that “tempe is a very important culture and cannot be separated from the lives of Indonesian people.” The authenticity of tempe from Indonesia cannot be denied as the tempe culture has been adopted by all levels of Indonesian society with its adaptability and has become one of the creative economy products as the pride of the Indonesian nation. What does it mean with the adaptability of tempe?

Tempe in Indonesia is popular with soybean as the main ingredient. However, there are many other tempe variants based on the main ingredient, such as koro tempe, winged bean tempe, green bean tempeh, red bean tempe, gembus tempe, benguk tempeh, lamtoro tempeh, and others. That way, there will always be a way for the Indonesian people to make tempe from another ingredient besides soybeans. The adaptability of tempe can also be seen in the way tempe is packaged in every region in Indonesia. In the Banyuwangi area, for example, tempe is packed with banana leaves because banana trees grow in that area very well. Meanwhile, in Yogyakarta, tempeh is packed with teak leaves and tied with mendong grass. That’s how tempe for the Indonesian. The Indonesian government has protected tempe with a regulation that makes tempe grow in a grassroots sector belonging to Indonesian SMEs and tempe is not allowed to be produced by large companies. This is aimed to maintain the value and pride of tempe, so that tempe can be more appreciated by the community. When tempe production in Indonesia is disrupted and the industry is disturbed, entrepreneurs and stakeholders in the tempe industry will act in unison to defend the disruption as tempe is a culture that should not be disturbed for them. The price of tempeh cannot even change that easy both in terms of increase and decrease. “We can’t see tempe as simple other commodities, why? because this is culture,” said Dadi. It is said that almost 200 thousand tempe entrepreneurs are in the informal sector with almost 1 million employees who are directly involved with SMEs that produce tempe in Indonesia, not to mention the traders, basket merchants, and so on. This industry that makes tempe from the raw ingredients contributes to an added value of IDR 13 Trillion every year. “We believe that this sector is economically very large,” said Ridha. Dadi also told us how valuable the cultural value of tempe is to be recognized as a world cultural heritage. Recognition from UNESCO will raise the dignity of tempe, so that tempe consumers in Indonesia can appreciate tempe more and will be useful in helping tempe producers, who are mostly MSMEs in Indonesia.

“Who will enjoy it when tempe is appointed as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO? Yes, SMEs, small communities, tempe entrepreneurs, not big industries,” added Ridha.

This is one thing of tempe’s urgencies. The economic impact is directly felt by the communities. For this reason, through various social media platforms, My Tempe Indonesia and Tempe Goes To UNESCO, all Indonesian people are invited to support tempe by sharing photos in the following Twibbonize frame with the hashtag #TempeGoesToUnesco #BanggabangsaTempe.

Tempe Goes to UNESCO – oleh MyTempe Id

Link: twb.nz/tempewbtb

While every communication channel such as social media and instant messaging application has the limit of its user segmentation, all members of the Indonesian Tempe Forum use Twibbonize to share the frames with all people without any limitation. One more thing to be proud of tempe is that Dadi said that tempe is one of nine types of food that is categorized as a superfood in the world. Aspects of sustainability in tempe culture, nutritional and non-nutritive components as a plant-based protein that are grown in an environmentally friendly manner encourage tempe to gain two to three times value in other countries. The representative of the Indonesian Tempe Forum for social media, Wardina Humaryah, also said that tempe had become a gastro diplomacy culture when it was introduced abroad. Many Indonesian diasporas bring tempe abroad for various purposes, such as their personal needs, and even establishing a tempe-based business there.

“This is the globalization and preservation of tempe culture, as well as to make them (Indonesian diaspora) survive with an affordable economic and protein source,” said Ibnu. However, at this point, tempe has another urgency as Indonesian cultural heritage. According to Dadi, tempe is an interesting target to be recognized by other countries for its authenticity, because tempe has been produced in several other countries, so this is the time for tempe to go as an intangible cultural heritage of Indonesia.

“The time has come for tempe culture due to its urgency, don’t let tempe be claimed by other countries, this is our cultural heritage,” said Dadi.

The story of tempe we heard from the proposal team of tempe to become an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO shows how extraordinary the love of the Indonesian people for tempe is. Without the support of a large industry, tempe is banded to the society and is very adaptively brought to the world with the pride of Indonesian people towards tempe.