Pempek or Mpek-mpek is a delicacy from Palembang, South Sumatra. It is made of fish and sago flours and served together with a dark, rich sauce called cuko. Cuko is made from brown sugar, chilli pepper, garlic, vinegar, and salt to boiling water.
There are many varieties of Pempek. The most famous one is the Pempek Kapal Selam (Indonesian: “submarine”), which is made from a chicken egg wrapped within the Pempek dough and then deep-fried. This type pempek contains of high vitamin, protein, mineral, and carbohydrate content, is the most nutritious variety. As a local staple, Pempek can be commonly found on every street in Palembang
According to some stories, Pempek had been already in Palembang since 16th century when Chinese traveller came to the region. Around 1617 there was an Apek (Chinese slang for an old man) who lived near Musi river. He noticed an abundance of fish caught by the local fishermen. During that period, most of the people simply just fried and grilled their fish. The old Chinese Man then tried other alternative by adding fish meat with sago flour and other spices, which he then sold around the village on his bicycle. The people referred to this old man as ‘pek-apek’. The food is known today as Empek-empek or Pempek Palembang.
Due the lack of some ingredients, I finally successfully made by myself. I substituted sago flour with tapioca and for the cuko, instead of using vinegar I used tamarind for having a sour taste.
Preparing time: 45 minutes
Serving for 4 people
- 250 gram flesh of Spanish mackerels, grinded
- 5 tablespoons ice water
- 100 g tapioca flour or sago flour
- 20 g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 125 g palm sugar
- 1 cloves of garlic, crushed/smashed
- 2 bird’s eyes chillies cut thinly
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoons of tamarind (depend how sour you want the soup is)
- 250 ml water
- Egg noodle, cooked
- Grinded dried shrimp (ebi) – optional
1. Grind the fish fillet. Then add ice water and salt. Mix them well.
2. Then gradually add all the flours into the fish mixture until it doesn’t stick anymore and you can easily shape it. Then shape pempek as you wish (usually long and round). Then deep fry and set aside.
3. Make the soup (cuko): boil the water with tamarind and palm sugar until sugar is dissolved. Filter, and then add the garlic, chillies and salt. Continue cooking for 3-5 minutes.
4. Serving: place the pempek in plate (you can cut into small pieces), add the noodle and then pour with the soup. Garnish with the cucumber. Some people like to add ebi (grinded dried shrimp).