fermented soybean stir fry with eggplants and beancurd

Fermented soybean paste (“Taoco” in Indonesian) is a traditional cooking condiment used in varieties of stir-fry dishes. Made from soybean, it is washed and soaked in water for 24 hours. It was peeled, boiled and fermented for two to three days. Rice flour is then added, sun-dried for two to five days, salt is then added. The final fermentation takes 1 to 2 weeks. Additional spices and flavorings are added and boiled for one last time and packed in small jars or plastic bags. 

Medan – where I live now, is one of the major producers for fermented soy bean paste. The paste from this area has slightly saltier taste compared to other parts of the country, where more sugar is added. 

The following dish is a very popular dish – mainly in rural area where people have parties at home to celebrate certain events or highlights, such as birthdays, coming of age, marriage. Such parties will involve willing family members, relatives and neighbors to come and cook for the festivities. This is always present because it can be cooked in big batches, this is also really cheap to make.  Sometimes this is prepared with slight variation of the ingredients but the essence of spices and cooking style are mainly the same. 

This time I used round and small eggplant, sized of big grapes (anybody knows what this variety of eggplant called?) and beancurd skin. This is what Pai always makes at her house for her home parties. My father commented that it was not spicy enough – it really wasn’t until you chewed on one of the chili slices, of course.

Anyway, fermented soy bean paste always has a very interesting umami taste to it, I think all dish using this will always be savory and delicious. 

Click below for the ingredients, instructions and how-to shoots on prepping dried beancurd skin for this tasty dish.


2 red chili, cut thinly and diagonally

4 (40 gr) green chili, cut thinly and diagonally

7 stinky beans, halved

4 (30 gr) cloves shallot, sliced thinly

1 (5 gr) clove garlic, sliced thinly

2″ (15 gr) galangal, flattened

0.5″ ginger, flattened

1 lemongrass, flattened

15 gr palm sugar (or brown sugar)

225 gr round eggplant, halved

75 gr dried beancurd

1 tablespoon South East Asian fermented soybean paste

5 salam leaves

1 tomato, quartered

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooking oil for deep frying

2 tablespoons cooking oil for stir frying

1 1/2 cup water


  • Heat 2 cups cooking oil in a wok / saucepan. When the oil is hot enough (smoke starts to come out), deep fry the whole beancurd skin sheet for one minute each side, until the skin fluff out. Remove and continue with the rest. Run the fried bean curd under runny water and tear them up to bite sizes by hands. Drain and set aside 
  • In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons cooking oil over medium heat. Stir fry sliced shallot and garlic for two minutes
  • Toss in stinky beans, galangal, ginger, lemongrass and salam leaves. Cook for two more minutes
  • Add eggplant halves, tomato, fermented soybean paste (taoco) and salt. Mix well for two minutes
  • Reduce heat, add chili slices and 1 1/2 cup of water. Simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add beancurd skin and soy sauce. Mix well and remove from heat
  • Serve warm


  • If milder version is preferred, reduce the amount of chili needed and / or remove the seeds
  • Any other ingredients can be added, such as shrimp, deep fried tempe (soybean cake) chip, string beans, etc
How to deep fry dried beancurd skin




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4 Responses to “Fermented Soybean Paste with Eggplant and Beancurd Skin”

  1. 1

    banana blossom — December 11, 2008 @ 4:40 am

    Tao cho is a favorite in my family. When we go home to Malaysia (my brother and I), we always ask our mother to make this dish. Her version uses fried beancurd, green beans (buncis), green chillies, red chillies (cored, used as vegetables) and shrimps as main ingredients. Sometimes she adds glass noodles (tang hun). We also like goreng belada. These dishes certainly make us feel like we are back in Medan! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  2. 2

    mysimplefood — December 11, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

    Hey hey…This is an interesting dish…….

    mysimplefood’s last blog post..Afternoon tea @ Yogitree

  3. 3

    noobcook — December 23, 2008 @ 4:34 am

    it looks fabulous and comforting, yummy. We call it Tao cho here as well!

    noobcook’s last blog post..Chicken and Mushroom Baked Rice

  4. 4

    Jun — January 7, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

    You are from Medan too? What a small small world!

    Yeah, it is kinda weird, isn’t it? But I am loving it

    You do? That’s great how we share so many same culinary terms. I would definitely survive if ever move to Singapore. :D

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