Pempek, Mpek-mpek or Empek-empek is a delicacy from Palembang,
Indonesia, made of fish and sago
(a starch extracted from the pith of sago palm stems). Pempek is served together with a dark, rich sauce called
cuka (lit. vinegar) and Baso Palembang. Cuka is produced by adding brown
sugar, chili pepper, garlic, vinegar, and salt to boiling water.
Left: Pempek Kapal Selam,
with whole egg inside.
There are many varieties of Pempek. One of the most famous
types is the Kapal Selam (Indonesian: "submarine"), which is made from a chicken
egg wrapped within the Pempek dough and then deep-fried. Other varieties include
Pempek telur kecil (lit. small egg Pempek), Pempek keriting (lit. curly Pempek),
Pempek pistel (lit. pistol Pempek), Pempek kulit ikan (lit. fish-skin Pempek),
Pempek adaan, Pempek lenjer, and "Pempek tahu" (lit.
According to a legend, at around 1617 there was an old Chinese Man who lived near
Musi river. He noticed an abundance of fish caught by the local fishermen. The
indigenous people, however did not know how to cook the fish properly. During
that period, most of the indigenous people simply fried their fish instead of
adding in other ingredients to make new dishes. The old Chinese Man mixed in
some sago and other spices, which he then sold around the village on his
bicycle. The people referred to this old man as 'pek-apek', where
apek is a
Chinese slang for an old man. The food is known today as Empek-empek or Pempek.
As a local staple, Pempek can be commonly found on every street in Palembang.
Numerous Pempek sellers and producers in Palembang use a cheaper combination of
fish, which has a strong scent. The best Pempek are made of Belido Fish and are
usually more expensive.