The Many Variants of Delicious Pempek Palembang


Pempek, sometimes also pronounced as mpek-mpek or empek-empek is a fishcake originated from South Sumatra, especially Palembang. The main ingredients of pempek is fish and tapioca. This fishcake is usually served with a sweet and sour sauce called kuah cuko (vinegar sauce).

Pempek Palembang. via Instagram/payopempek

Some experts believe that pempek was already made during the Srivijayan era in the 7th century. At that time, this called kelesan and made from sago and fish meat. There was Chinese influence at play so the snack evolves into what we can enjoy today. Anyway, here are some of the most popular types of pempek from Palembang.


Pempek Lenjer. via Instagram/nurbayti7289

This is a type of pempek that is made lengthwise, mostly in cylindrical form. Just before the dough is fried, the cylinder is cut into bite-size delish. This is one of the traditional types of pempek and is almost omnipresent in all pempek stalls.

Kapal Selam

Pempek Kapal Selam. via Instagram/pempekpalembang15

Literally means submarine, this pempek has a hidden gem in it. It is basically a boiled egg wrapped with pempek dough and then fried. The shape will remind you of Chinese dumpling, only bigger. The fried kapal selam is usually cut vertically.


Pempek Dos. via Instagram/fitrirobert

This is a rather unique pempek because it leaves out fish from the ingredient list. That’s why many people consider pempek dos as the vegetarians’ pempek. Basically, any type of pempek can be made into dos as the only requirement is to make a dough with tapioca only.


Pempek Belah. via Instagram/pempekpalembang15

Belah means split or sliced. Basically, this is a pempek lenjer which is then slit open. The resulting gap is being used to contain the cuko or sambal. This is an ingenious way to combine pempek and its cuko in one bite.

Adaan (Bulat)

Pempek Adaan. via Instagram/inachen08

This is the most recognizable pempek of all. Bulat means round in Bahasa Indonesia. You can probably guess it now that this is ball-shaped pempek. Usually, they are bite-size so you can easily enjoy it in one go.


Pempek Sosis. via Instagram/pempek.mama

At a glance, this might look similar to pempek lenjer. But when you cut it into small bite-size, you can see that there is a sausage inside this pempek. Just like kapal selam, a sausage is wrapped with pempek dough and then fried.


Pempek Crispy. via Instagram/natalieduyen

This one is made not from fish meat, but exclusively fish skin. The result is that the fish tense and aroma get really tense and it can have a crispier texture. It is usually served in a rather thin and flat shape.


Pempek Lenggang. via Instagram/pempekladas

Lenggang was originally made by roasting the dough that is mixed with egg using banana leaves wrap. Today, people also make pempek lenggang just like when they make omelet, by frying it with eggs. Sometimes they even add noodle in the ingredient.


Pempek Panggang. via Instagram/sinthalia

This one is also quite straightforward. Panggang means grill or roast. So the dough is roasted or grilled until it’s cooked evenly. This type of pempek is distinguishable visually by the burn marks in some part of its surface.


Pempek Keriting. via Instagram/ailiehoalie74

This curly delish is a small noodle ball, using a similar technique that is used when making white kerupuk. This curly balls can be enjoyed fried or steamed, depending on your preference. Steamed one has a softer texture.

Pempek Palembang. via Instagram/mayjaykay

Pempek Pelembang is a snack from another era that survives the changing of time. Mostly made from fish and tapioca, because pempek is popular not only in South Sumatra but also in all parts of Indonesia. You can find pempek stalls in most cities in Indonesia, most of them will claim that they serve original Palembang taste.

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