This fishcake is absolutely one of our favorite Indonesian dish. In Indonesia, we call this dish pempek. Pempek was originated from Sumatera, one of the big island in Indonesia which consists of many cities. Although it came from Sumatera, but this dish is well known almost everywhere in Indonesia and many people like it because it’s just so different from any other fishcakes and it’s so delicious.
There are many kind of recipes for pempek, and each recipe will result in different kind of taste of the fishcake. There are also many variations of this fishcake, such as lenjer (long shape fishcake), adaan (round shape fishcake, usually made with coconut milk), kapal selam (or submarine fishcake because the shape looks like a submarine with egg yolk as the filling), kulit (made from fish skin), keriting (curly shape fishcake made using special fish cake mold).
Pempek is usually eaten with the spicy, sweet, and sour black sauce which we known as kuah cuko. For my son and husband who don’t like spicy food, I made the non spicy version, but it’s not as delicious as the spicy version. We also eat this fishcake with cucumbers, egg noodle, dried shrimp powder, and my favorite sambal ijo or Indonesian green sambal / super spicy green chili sauce. Oh, I love it when it’s very spicy.
It’s very easy to fine this dish in Jakarta, even in my parents neighborhood, there are several restaurants originated from Sumatera which sell this dish. Each restaurant has different taste of pempek. It’s very difficult to say which one is better, because it depends on each one’s preference. Even my husband, my son, and I have different taste, but my favorite is the one which starts with S…………..
I usually bought at least 50 pempek whenever I came back to Jakarta and I would put them freezer here (and yes, that was how much we loved this dish). Then I was thinking of why not trying to make it my own.
The first time, I didn’t like the taste but my husband and my son were actually liked it a lot (the taste reminded me of pempek from the restaurant that starts with B, and I didn’t like pempek from this shop, but this shop was very well known). My second try with different recipe, my husband and son said it wasn’t good but I actually loved it so much. The third time (with another different recipe), was the most successful one because everyone loved it……………….yeay………..! I made pempek twice with this recipe that I will share below, and it was always spot on. We loved it.
To make this fishcake, there are 2 different techniques, one using a starter dough, and the other one not. The one that I will share is using starter dough. The dough is easy to shape and it wasn’t so difficult to add egg yolk compare to the one without the starter dough (I still failed adding egg yolk if I used the recipe without starter dough).
You can also use different kind of fish, but this time, I made it using batang or tenggiri fish. Also, many people said it is best to use fresh fish, but since fresh fish is not that easy to find here, I used frozen fish which was fine for me, the result was still delicious. Just remember that the amount of water used when using fresh or frozen fish is different).
For the fishcake:
- 30 gr all purpose flour
- 170 -220 ml water (If the fish is fresh, use 220 ml water. If the fish was frozen, reduce the water to 170 ml)
- 5 garlic, mash with mortar and pestle
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 300 gr tenggiri / batang fish
- 250 gr tapioca flour
- egg yolks for the fillings
For the sauce / “kuah cuko”:
- 300 gr gula jawa / Indonesian palm sugar or any kind of brown palm sugar
- 1 L water
- 5 garlic, mash with mortar and pestle
- 50 gr asam jawa / tamarind (add 30 ml of water, then squeeze the tamarind with your fingers to get the juice. Discard the tamarind and use the juice only)
- 1/2 salt
- 1 tbsp dried shrimp powder
- 2 gr tongchai or Tung Chai or Chinese Pickled Cabbage (optional, you can skip this if you don’t have)
- red and green chili padi (the amount depends on how spicy you want the sauce to be) , mash with mortar and pastle
- Egg noodle
- Dried shrimp powder
To make the fish cake:
- Boil water in a big pot
- First, we are going to make the starter dough. In a small pan, combine all purpose flour, water, salt, and sugar. Mix well with a wooden spatula
- Cook in low heat while continuously stirring until the mixture is very thick and you see some bubbles appear. Turn off the heat. Let cool in room temperature
- In a big bowl, combine fish and mash garlic, mix well
- Add the starter dough into the bowl, and mix again using a wooden spatula
- Add tapioca flour little by little (4 to 5 times), and in each addition, gently mix with a wooden spatula. Don’t knead the dough. I used my hand because it was easier to mix by hand, but I didn’t knead the dough. I just brought them together gently until they were all combined into one big dough. If you over mix, the fishcake will become hard, so just mix gently (wooden spatula would be the best choice to use)
- Remove the dough to the kitchen top (I usually used silicone mat on top of the kitchen top because the dough didn’t stick to the mat). Sprinkle some tapioca flour if necessary
- Shape into long shape, round shape, or fill with egg yolk in the middle. To make fishcake with egg yolk:
- Cook in boiling water until the fish cake floats. If you fill the middle with egg yolk, add another 10 minutes in the cooking time to make sure the egg is cooked thoroughly
- Once it floats, remove from the hot water and wash with cold water
- Deep fried until golden brown in both sides
To make the sauce (make the sauce one day ahead and it will taste better):
- In a medium sauce pan, add all ingredients to make the sauce
- Cook in low heat and bring to boil
- For stronger flavor, cook in low heat for another 15 minutes
- Let cool in room temperature and keep in the refrigerator
How to serve:
- Cook egg noddle in boiling water and discard the water
- Cut cucumber in small slices
- Serve the fishcake with egg noddle, cucumber, and pour the sauce
- Sprinkle some dried shrimp powder (optional)