Oncom is a fermented mold based food, considered to be a staple of the Sundanese cuisine. It is very similar to the tempeh which is eaten throughout Java. The food is considered to be economical as it makes use of the various byproducts left behind during the preparation of other food items. The soy bean and cassava tailings that are usually discarded after the production of tofu and starch respectively, are used to make the oncom. Similarly, the press-cakes of coconut and peanut that have been extracted for oil also form an important part of its production. The fresh product exudes a mushroom-like aroma.
It is cooked and eaten in various ways and is considered to be a delicacy by the Sundanese people. The product can also be stored in a refrigerator, however, stacking the cakes on top of each other is not recommended as the internal heat of the fermented product can encourage microbial growth causing toxicity.
There are two major kinds of the Sundanese staple produced at present. The red variety is made from Neurospora intermedia while the black ones are created out of the Rhizopus oligosporus mold.
The food is sold in Asian specialty stores across the United States of America. However, it is often labeled as Textured Vegetables Protein (TVP) Mince or soya mince and is available in the dried form.
Sanitation and hygiene are regarded to be of paramount importance while producing the mold based fermented food. Contamination by other microbes may make it toxic and unfit for human consumption. Scientific studies regarding the best method of producing this fermented food product is ongoing at present and most of the health benefits associated with it are still in the experimental stage.
Fermented Oncom: Ingredients and Preparation Overview
Dried, whole soy beans along with vinegar and an oncom starter are the basic ingredients for producing the fermented cake. The soybeans are usually ground to a fine powder and boiled to separate the pulp from the milk. A mixture is created by adding vinegar and starter to the pulp which is then incubated at 30-31 degrees C. The fermentation period usually takes about 22-28 hours and the resultant product is a firm white-colored cake where the beans are present in a compact form.
Fermented Oncom: Popular Recipes
The product can be fried or cooked in banana leaf wrappings known as pepe in the local dialect. It is also considered to be an important ingredient of stir fry dishes.
- Nasi Tutug Oncom- a complete meal consisting of oncom cakes, shallots, steamed rice, sambal terasi, omelet pieces and anchovy.
- Oncom dijero- a dough based snack which is stuffed with grated cassava root mixed with the fermented cake.
- Serabi Oncom- a flat pancake prepared with red pepper and coconut milk along with the mashed oncoms .
Oncom is the only food that is made from neurospora.
“The book of tempeh”, Volume 2 Written by William Shurtleff & Akiko Aoyagi