Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 23 August 2013 • Destination
Thou shalt not pass eating pempek when thou art in Bandar Lampung. Teehee.
Seriously, guys. I can’t promise you will like it, but it is one of the special food of Lampung. It is actually more popular as a signature food from Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra province, which borders with Lampung province. According to history, the area that is now named as Lampung used to be part of South Sumatra. So it’s not a surprise that these places share similar kinds of food. Even their traditional languages sound so much alike!
It is more or less deep fried fish cake, made of fish and tapioca, and it’s savory. It is one of my most favorite food in the whole wide world! And this is how you pronounce it: pam – pack. Or something like that.
There are several types of pempek: the plain one, with egg filling, with shredded young papaya (kates) filling, the ball shaped with a bit crusty skin, and many more.
Grab it with your bare hand, or stick it with a fork, then dip it into cuko or cuka, and bite. And then sip the cuka directly from the small bowl or plate, like your mother used to tell you NOT to do. Take it easy, though. Cuka is spicy, you don’t wanna gulp too fast or too much ‘cos you could choke up.
There is also the kapal selam (submarine) type, which is a bigger slice pempek with egg filling, that you eat with noodles, cucumber cuts and sprinkles of dried shrimp.
My most favorite is the grilled pempek with dried shrimp and chili paste filling, a newer creation in the pempek world. Unfortunately, grilling it takes more effort than the deep fried ones. So sometimes grilled pempek is not available. Boohoo…
It’s the sauce made of vinegar (in Indonesian cuka means vinegar), palm sugar, salt, garlic and chili pepper. You can have the pempek swim in the cuka or put them in separate plates/bowls, to then dip it into the cuka bowl.
There are so many pempek eateries in Bandar Lampung. Which one is the best? Honestly, I don’t know. But my Mom has always taken us to the Salim Batubara street for pempek, specifically to the Pempek 56 eatery.
There’s a row of pempek eateries on that street, mostly named with numbers, based on the house numbers that the eateries occupy, like Pempek 56, Pempek 81, and Pempek 99.
What is the difference between the pempek from these numbers? Again, honestly, I personally don’t know. I’ve tasted pempek from several eateries there but I haven’t noticed any difference.
There are also some pempek eateries outside this area, like the Pempek 123 on Sudirman street. Here you can choose the level of spiciness of the cuka, ranging from a bit sweet, medium, to very hot that it’s hard to handle!
Not to worry though, ‘cos they also have sweet iced beverages to balance the spiciness of cuka, like the es kelapa (coconut shreds in coconut water with ice), es shanghai (just about anything good like diced avocado, coconut shreds, etc, with grated ice), and es durian (ice with the meat of durian, most Asians’ beloved fruit that most Caucasians would hate for the smell). However, did you know, that the most effective way to get rid of spiciness is to drink hot water?
Trivia: Other words for pempek is empek-empek.
Prices at Pempek 56: a package of 13 pieces cost IDR 50,000, and it goes cheaper per piece if you bought bigger packages.
Jl. Salim Batubara 56, ph: 62 721 484407
Jl. Jend. Sudiman 15, ph: 62 721 255791