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Pempek Palembang (Boiled Fishcake with Sweet Sour Sauce)

Pempek is native to Palembang, South Sumatera Island. Actually, no one knows where pempek exactly comes from, because almost all regions of Sumatra Selatan popularize it as its special food. But, they say it has been in Palembang since 16th century. The name of pempek is believed coming from the word “apek”,which means “little”. The word Apek is commonly used to call Chinese who live in Palembang at that time. In this case, Apek is 65 years old man. The folktale which spread by mouth to mouth says that a 65 year-old “apek” who lived at the bank of Musi River found an idea to try another alternative way to cook fish. He mixed grinded flesh of fish and tapioca until it results new kind of food. Apek peddled the new food surrounding town by bike. Because the seller was called “pek…apek”, so finally it was known as empek-empek or pempek.

Ingredients :

  • 1000 g boneless mackerel fish, blended
  • 500 g tapioca flour
  • 300 ml cool water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 eggs

Vinegar Sauce (Cuko) :

  • 1000 ml water
  • 1000 g brown sugar
  • 150 g garlic blended
  • 200 g capsicums, blended
  • 2 tablespoon vinegar
  • 5 spoon soy sauce
  • 5 chilies, chopped (it is better if use cayenne pepper)
  • 150 g dried shrimps, grinded
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Additional ingredients : 1 cucumber cut into small cube sized pieces.

Directions :

  1. In a bowl, mix cool water and salt, eggs and fish meat. Add tapioca flour gradually, knead until the dough does not stick.
  2. Form the dough as desired, long, round with egg or tofu inside as filling. Put water in pan, bring to boil. Put the fish cake into the boiling water until each floats on the surface, means it’s done, strain.
  3. Pempek can be eaten just boiled or fried and serve in a serving dish with vinegar sauce (cuko), separately.
  4. To make vinegar sauce : in a pan, put water, brown sugar, garlic, soy sauce, chili, salt, dried shrimp and vinegar. Bring to boil until done, remove from the heat and sieve.
  5. Serve pempek with vinegar sauce and small cube sized cucumber.

Klepon (Sweet Coconut Rice Balls)

Klepon is native to Java island. In Indonesia, klepon usually eaten as morning or afternoon snacks along with hot cup of tea. To eat klepon must be careful because freshly boiled one usually contains hot palm sugar liquid that will pop out when you bite it.


  • 1½ cups glutinous rice powder
  • ¾ cup lukewarm water
  • 2-3 drops green food coloring
  • 8 tablespoon grated Java dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup fresh-grated coconut, mixed with ½ tablespoon salt


  1. Mix the rice powder with the lukewarm water and green food coloring into a firm but flexible dough.
  2. Pull off one full teaspoon of the dough and shape it into a ball with approximately 1-inch in diameter.
  3. Push a finger into the center of the ball to make a hole, and put in approximately ½ tablespoon of the grated brown sugar. Seal, and roll it back into the ball shape with the palms of your hands. Prepare all the balls and set them aside.
  4. Prepare a pot half filled with water and boil it.
  5. Drop the balls into the boiling water. Remove the balls with a spoon once they float to the water surface and then roll the balls in the grated coconut.
  6. Serve at room temperature. the dough is for 30 rice balls.

Tip : When working with the dough, cover your hands in flour to prevent it sticking to your fingers.


December 2011
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