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What’s For Dinner? Oncom

The first time I saw the bright orange, strange-looking thing, I had no idea what to think. Was it some kind of cheese? Was it even food? “Oncom,” my Indonesian tutor Niar said. Pronounced on-chom, this isn’t cheese. Oncom is an Indonesian staple closely related to the soy bean product tempeh. Oncom is made from all of the leftovers from tempeh and tofu and then it’s fermented. Since it is made from byproducts, it’s very cheap. A large slice of oncom at my market costs about 20 cents, if not less. Oncom is meaty and hearty and I think this will be the next big thing in soy bean products if it ever reaches the States.

I’d been dropping lots of clues to Niar during our Indonesian tutoring sessions and so one Saturday afternoon she came to my apartment and our tutoring lesson became a fun cooking and cultural class. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had seen oncom. The next time I went to the market I immediately spotted it and said, “oncom,” out loud. I delighted my vegetable lady who was surprised that I knew what it was.

Niar showed me how to make a light tasty batter and then we fried the oncom. It’s best eaten hot and it really is filling. See the recipe at the end of the post.

Fried Oncom
You’ll need:
-1 cup of flour
-1/2 cup milk
-1/2 cup water
-pinch of salt, to your liking
-pinch of pepper, to your liking
-1 egg
-green onion, add as much as you like to the battter
-celery leaves, add as much as you like to the battter (note: Indonesian celery is a smaller variety than that commonly found in the West.)
-frying oil
1. Combine flour, water, milk, egg, salt, pepper, green onion and celery leaves to make a batter.
2. Slice oncom into pieces and season with salt.
3. Coat the pieces with batter and cook in hot oil. The oncom pieces will be golden brown when ready.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m highly intrigued … I’m Indonesian, and I have yet to taste this oncom you speak of!

    November 20, 2012
    • I think it may have a bit of a reputation as “poor man” food. It’s very cheap and whenever I would mention it among Indonesian foods I like to cab drivers, they would have a good chuckle.

      November 20, 2012
  2. Oncom actually more famous in West Java (Sundanese) and many other tribes or people outside the island of Java are less familiar with Oncom.
    There are a lot of Indonesian food you have to try Lydia…, I love your blog.

    Best wishes,

    December 13, 2012
  3. Wow, I like oncom too. But usually we use oncom as the filling of other snack, Comro. Comro is made from cassava and filled with fried crumbled oncom. it’s very tasty..I love your blog. It’s very informative.

    December 27, 2012

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