Home > Combro Isi Tempe (Deep Fried Cassava Ball with Tempeh)

Combro Isi Tempe (Deep Fried Cassava Ball with Tempeh)

Posting Date: 05/14/17

Combro Isi Tempe (Deep Fried Cassava Ball with Tempeh)

Combro Isi Tempe (Deep Fried Cassava Ball with Tempeh) originated from Sunda in West Java in Indonesia. It is traditionally made with grated cassava (yuca) stuffed with oncom. It is shaped like an oval ball and then deep fried. Oncom is fermented soybean and made from a byproduct of other food. It also originated from Sunda. It is very hard to find it outside Indonesia and thus, people living abroad substitute it with tempeh when making combro. It is becoming easier to find tempeh (called tempe in Indonesian language) even in your local grocery stores. It is normally placed where they put tofu or you can find it in the freezer where they put health food items. Health food stores also sell it because of its nutritional values. You can definitely find it in the freezer in large Asian grocery stores. Some small Asian stores may sell it in the freezer if they have aisle that sells Indonesian items. If you are not familiar with tempeh, it is made from fermented soybean. Like oncom, it also originated from Indonesia, specifically from Java island. When you buy tempeh to make combro, choose the one that has no flavor because nowadays you can find tempeh with many different flavors, such as smoky BBQ, etc. Since we are going to flavor it with the spices when making combro, we want unflavor tempeh so that it will not interfere with the spices used. Some brands may call unflavor tempeh as 'Original Flavor'.

Because of the ingredients used in making combro, this dish is vegetarian but I found meat lovers love it because of the depth of flavor. It tastes sour from the tomato, salty from the salt, sweet from the sugar, hot from the chili pepper, and earthy from the galangal. It is basically a flavor bomb in your mouth and that's why I like it and it is one of my favorite Indonesian snacks. It is perfect finger food. In Indonesia, it is served as snacks and sold by street food vendors. You can serve it as an appetizer or a snack to eat when watching sport or drinking tea or coffee. In Indonesia, it is normally served with Thai chili pepper on the side. You bite a little bit of combro and Thai chili pepper and munch them together. However, for people not accustomed to Thai chili pepper, it will be too hot to handle. So, you can leave it out and eat it as is or you can dip it in sweet chili sauce. Sweet Chili Sauce is not really hot and the sweet taste of it could complement combro. However, combro tastes good even without it.

As mentioned before, combro is made of grated cassava (yuca). You may be able to find grated cassava in the freezer of your Asian stores and Latin stores. If you use frozen grated cassava, bring it to room temperature first before using it. Once it is at room temperature, put it on a colander for half an hour to drain the liquid. During that time, you may also use a spoon to press it several times so that more liquid is drained. If you cannot find grated cassava, you can also use frozen cassava and grate it yourself. You will also need to bring it to room temperature before grating it. I found it easier to find frozen cassava than frozen grated cassava in Asian or Latin stores. Sometimes you can also find fresh cassava, too. If that's the case, peel the skin and grate it. If you are not familiar with cassava, every part of it (root, peel, leaves) should not be eaten raw because of the cyanide property in it. You must properly cook cassava to get rid of the cyanide. One spice used in making combro is called galangal or cutchery (called kencur in Indonesian language). You can find fresh galangal in Asian stores or you can use galangal powder. I use the powder form since it is easier to find in the stores.

This recipe makes about 6 combro.


  • For the skin: 16 oz frozen grated cassava. Bring it to room temperature. If you cannot find frozen grated cassava, you can use frozen casave. Bring it to room temperature. If you use fresh cassava, peel the skin.
  • For the skin: 1 green onion, white part discarded and green part thinly sliced
  • For the skin: 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For the skin: 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • For the spice paste: 3 small shallots or 1 large shallot, quartered to make it easier to process in food processor
  • For the spice paste: 2 cloves of garlic, roughly sliced to make it easier to process in food processor
  • For the spice paste: 1/2 jalapeno pepper or to taste, sliced to make it easier to process in food processor. If you have low tolerance to heat, discard the seeds and ribs of the jalapeno pepper.
  • For the filling: 1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • For the filling: 2 bay leaves
  • For the filling: 1/4 teaspoon galangal (cutchery or kencur) powder
  • For the filling: 2 oz tempeh, using knife, crumbled to separate grains. Make sure you get unflavored tempeh or original flavor since we don't want other flavor to interfere with the spices used in making combro.
  • For the filling: 1/2 of Roma tomato, diced in small pieces
  • For the filling: 1 green onion, sliced
  • For the filling: pinch of pepper or to taste
  • For the filling: 1.5 tablespoons water
  • For the filling: 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • For the filling: 1/2 teaspoon sugar or to taste
  • For deep frying combro: vegetable oil
  • Optional for serving: sweet chili sauce
  • Optional for serving: Thai chili peppers. This is a traditional way combro is served in Indonesia. If you have no or little tolerance to heat, skip it.


  1. Place frozen grated cassava on colander to drain the liquid. Leave it for half hour. During that time, you may want to press it with back of spoon several times to drain more liquid because the liquid will affect texture and cause oil to splatter when frying. If you use frozen cassava, grate it after it has been at room temperature. For fresh cassava, grate it after peeling off the skin.
  2. Place grated cassave in a small bowl. Add green onion, salt, and coriander powder. Using rubber spatula, mix the ingredients well and set it aside.
  3. Add shallots, garlic, and jalapeno pepper into a food processor. Pulse it so that they become paste.
  4. Heat up vegetable oil in a small pan on a medium high heat. Add spice paste, bay leaves, and galangal powder into the pan. Saute it until it becomes fragrant and shallot is cooked. Add tempe and stir fry it until it is golden brown. Add tomato and stir fry it until tomato becomes soft. Add green onion, pepper, water, salt, and sugar. Stir it to mix the seasoning with other ingredients. Taste it and add more salt, sugar, or pepper if needed. Cook it until the water has completely evaporated. Remove the pan from the heat. Put the filling on a small plate to cool down.
  5. Once the filling has cooled down, take a little bit of cassava mixture, shape it to about 1" diameter of ball, and place it on the palm of your hand. Flaten it on your hand so that it is about 1.75" in length and 1.25" wide. Place the filling on top of it. Take a little bit of cassava mixture from the bowl to cover the filling so that it is completely covered and has an oval ball shape. Using your fingers, gently press the oval ball all over so that it is set and packed, and cassava forms smooth ball. This will prevent the ball from falling apart during cooking. Set it on a plate. Repeat this step until all cassava mixture has been used up. If you have the filling left, you can eat it with warm rice. It tastes good with rice.
  6. Heat up enough vegetable oil in a deep pan on medium high heat. Make sure the oil is enough to completely cover the ball during frying. Once the oil is hot, add the balls to the pan. You don't want to overcrowd the pan because it will drop the temperature. I normally fry 4 at a time but it depends on the size of your pan. Once all sides are golden brown, take combro out of the oil using slotted spoon to drain as much oil as possible and place it on a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat this step until all combro have been cooked. Turn off the heat.
  7. While it is still warm, serve combro with sweet chili sauce or Thai chili pepper if preferred.

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