In the olden days not too long ago there was a kampong (village) by the name of Kampong Tempeh in Singapore. It was located between Sixth Avenue and Coronation Road West in the Bukit Timah area. During its heydays between 1920'S and late 1980'S, Kampong Tempeh was quite a big village spanning a neighbourhood which comprises of Jalan Haji Alias, Jalan Lim Tai See, Coronation Road West, Jalan Siantan, Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tuah.
If you look at the map of Singapore today, you will not be able to locate Jalan Tuah anymore. Jalan Tuah was just a short street in terms of size and when all the people have moved out of the kampong due to relocation, the authorities have unceremoniously removed it from the Singapore map.
Kampong Tempeh received its name and was made famous in Singapore during those days for the tempeh that was produced in the village. Tempeh is a type of fermented food made out from soy bean which originates from Indonesia and it is a favorite item among the Javanese people. Most of the pioneering villagers living in Kampong Tempeh came from Indonesia and there were many families involved in the tempeh making business. The tempeh produced were home made, its recipe being passed down from the older generation and their productions combined were enough to make it as a famous tempeh making district. As time goes on, gradually food companies started producing tempeh from the factories and at the same time by the late 70'S only a handful of the families were left in the tempeh business.
There were actually many clusters of houses in the kampong and each cluster may comprise of several houses belonging to the same close-knit family members. This is of course the traditional way of how the old Malay kampong is structured and Kampong Tempeh is of no exception. Most relatives tend to have their houses next to each other. This was possible because originally one family would normally build a house in quite a large plot of land and when the family grew, they simply build an annex as another unit of dwelling or if space permit, another house is built next to it. It was not known how many houses or families actually were living in the kampong but it could be around 100 or 200 houses.
Within this kampong, there were also several houses belonging to Chinese families and there was also a Chinese temple, a few Chinese grocery shops and a Chinese wayang stage. The Malays and Chinese lived together harmoniously in Kampong Tempeh and many of the Malay kampong folks and children would even attend to watch the Chinese wayang shows. The temple is still there but the wayang stage is already gone.
Around the mid 80's the authorities sent circulars to the land owners of the kampong that their land needed to be redeveloped into proper houses according to the building standards of the day and wooden houses were not to be allowed and to be phased out in Singapore. So by the late 80'S almost all of the kampong folks have already sold their lands and moved out of their beloved Kampong Tempeh. Only a few managed to redeveloped their kampong houses into new houses according to the requirements of the authorities but today, there is only one family still residing on the same house that they have redeveloped.
Book About Kampong Tempeh
This book conveys fragments of the village's history and retells stories from the bygone days of the early settlement, such as the villagers' fear of living in bunkers during the war, and their struggle sourcing for food that led them to produce tempe or fermented soya bean cakes, for which the village later came to be known.