The edible submarine from Palembang
Egg yolk wrapped in a dough made of cornstarch and mackerel is shaped like a submarine fishcake called pempek kapal selam (submarine pempek).
The pempek is fried until crispy and served in a plate of mixed vinegar and brown sugar topped with diced cucumber and dried shrimp.
This special culinary snack from Palembang, South Sumatra, can be easily found in Denpasar. Among the many pempek stalls is Pempek Palembang 19 on Jl. Dewi Sartika, next to the Matahari department store, just before the intersection of Jl. Teuku Umar and Jl. Diponegoro.
With only Rp 13,000 (US$1.36), we can enjoy a complete set of submarine pempek and another pempek style called lenjer, which derives from the Palembang word for oval.
Some say that the history of pempek started in the 16th century, when many Chinese migrants came to Palembang. The word pempek, or empek-empek as it is also known, is believed to originate from apek, which means old Chinese man. The story goes that an old man found that plenty of the fish he caught were not put to good use, being only fried or salted and boiled for pindang. Finally, he decided to process the fish with cornstarch dough. He sold the end product, which is now called pempek, from his bicycle.
“Our pempek business has been running for 20 years,” said Dedi, who is assisting his father, the initiator of the business, which has blossomed into a three site street-vendor business, with the other sites being near the Kerobokan police station on Jl. Gunung Sanghyang and Jl. Subur in Monang Maning.
Dedi said the stall could sell up to 20 portions a day, and even double that during weekends.
Besides the submarine and pempek lenjer, the stall also sells mackerel fish crackers priced at Rp 5,000 per pack. Pempek Palembang 19 opens from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day.