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Authentic Recipe of Pempek Kapal Selam. Savory Indonesian Traditional Submarine Fish Cake from Palembang.

This recipe of Indonesian fish cake Pempek Kapal Selam is authentic and traditional, as native housewives and cooks from Palembang locally curate it.

Things to know about Pempek Kapal Selam Recipe

This famous Indonesian dish locally known as pempek originated in the South Sumatra capital city of Palembang. Along with tekwan, pempek is one of the most beloved fish dishes in the country.

Historically, pempek was first invented by a Chinese Immigrant that entered Palembang in the 16th Century, during the reign of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II of the Palembang-Darussalam Sultanate. Based on a local folk story, in the year 1617, an old Chinese man (apek is the common word in the region) becomes tired of the usual way of cooking fish, like frying, grilling, and stewing.

He lived in the Musi Riverbanks, where fish was very abundant. He tried a new way to cook fish, and that was by combining tapioca flour and ground fish meat, and thus, pempek was created. The name pempek originates from the old Chinese man that often sells the dish by going around on bicycles.

There are many different types of pempek, but generally, it is made out of the same ingredient, tenggiri or Spanish Mackerel, as its meat is soft and easy to cook. The most popular variants of pempek include the lenjer, which is shaped like a long tube and often served sliced into coin-shaped pieces.

Other than lenjer, the uniquely named kapal-selam (submarine) is also very popular. It is an extra-large pempek usually filled with a whole egg inside and is shaped like—you guessed it, a submarine. Other variants include adaan; a ball-shaped pempek, kulit; which uses mackerel skin as its main ingredient, and keriting; which is curly-shaped. Either way, you would not want to miss out on this dish!

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Savory Indonesian Traditional Submarine Fish Cake from Palembang. Authentic Recipe of Pempek Kapal Selam.

Local Recipe Name with Local Characters: Pempek Kapal Selam; Kapal Selam; Empek-Empek
User submitted Recipe
5 from 1 vote

— General Atributes of This Recipe:

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Main Cooking Method Boiled, Fried, Fried (Deep)


Servings 6 Portions
Calories / Serving 291 kcal


Pempek Dough

  • 200 grams (7.05 oz) Spanish Mackerel Fillet
  • 150 grams (5.29 oz) Tapioca Flour
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 50 mL (1.69 floz) Water Ice cold
  • 750 mL (25.36 floz) Water Boiled
  • 1 pc Egg White
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 100 grams (3.53 oz) Dried Egg Noodles – Mie Kuning
  • 1 pc Cucumber
  • 1 tbsp Dried Shrimp Powder – Ebi
  • 6 pcs Egg
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
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Vinegar Sauce (Cuko Hitam)

  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 6 pcs Green Bird’s Eye Chili Pepper
  • 200 mL (6.76 floz) Water
  • 30 mL (1.01 floz) Tamarind Juice
  • 150 grams (5.29 oz) Palm Sugar – Palm Jaggery
  • 1/2 tbsp White Sugar – Regular Sugar – Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp Dried Shrimp Powder – Ebi
  • 1/2 tsp Salt


Pempek Dough

  • Add the cold fish fillet, garlic, ice water, egg white, and salt into a food processor, blend until smooth.
  • Add the fish paste into a bowl, add the tapioca flour and mix well with a wooden spoon or hand until the dough does not stick to the hand/spoon.
  • Divide the dough into 6 equal portions.
  • Into a large pot add the boiled water and vegetable oil.
  • Dust your hand with tapioca flour, and shape the dough into a bowl shape, crack an egg and fill the dough.
  • Pinch the edges slowly to seal the egg inside the dough, be careful as to not let it leak.
  • Place it into the pot and let it cook until it floats.
  • Transfer in warm water and let it sit for 10 minutes. Take out and set aside.
  • Into a large wok, add enough oil to deep fry. Bring it to heat.
  • Fry the pempek until golden brown, strain, and set aside.

Vinegar Sauce (Cuko Hitam)

  • Into a sauce pan, add all the ingredients and stir well.
  • Bring it to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Strain the sauce and set aside.


  • To serve, take one pempek and serve it whole or sliced.
  • On a serving plate, add the egg noodle and cucumber. Place the pempek on top.
  • Pour over a generous amount of cuko hitam.
  • Top with dried shrimp powder.
  • The dish is ready to be served!

— Specific Atributes of This Recipe:


Calories: 291kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 11gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 732mgPotassium: 159mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 38IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 34mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Empek-Empek Recipe, Indonesian Traditional Submarine Fish Cake, Kapal Selam Recipe, Pempek Kapal Selam Recipe
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Cooking tip for making Pempek Kapal Selam

  • If it is hard to add one whole egg to the pempek dough, you can use a few tablespoons of beaten eggs instead.
  • Once the tapioca flour is added, mix the dough slowly to prevent the final product from being tough and chewy to make Pempek Kapal Selam.
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Variations of Pempek Kapal Selam

There are a lot of pempek forms and variations, like the kapal-selam (submarine), adaan (round shaped), keriting (curly), kulit (fish-skin), and many more. We will learn to create other types of pempek in another recipe!

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