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Savory Fish Cakes (Empek-Empek Palembang) Recipe

Savory Fish Cakes (Empek-Empek Palembang) Recipe

Savory Fish Cakes (Empek-Empek Palembang) Recipe

These fish cakes are called Empek Empek Palembang, which is one of the largest cities on the island of Sumatra in the northwestern hemisphere of Indonesia. Pan-fried fish cakes have a chewy texture that contrasts well with the tangy, savory sauce. Traditionally, the fish cakes are served in the sauce, almost like a soup, rather than with the sauce on the side. Some versions of the dish also feature a small quantity of egg noodles, arranged in the sauce just beneath the fish cakes. In this recipe though, I’ve omitted the noodles to keep the dish on a lighter note.

Ingredients :

    • 1 lb (500 g) fresh tilapia fish fillets (or any white, tender fish)
    • 6-10 cloves garlic
    • 6 tablespoons ice water
    • 1 large egg
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
    • Oil to coat the bottom of large frying pan


    • 5 cups (1.25 liters) water
    • 4 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
    • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    • 6-10 cloves garlic
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground red chili pepper
    • 3 tablespoons small dried shrimp
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Method :

    1. Cut the fish fillets into large chunks. Using a food processor, grind the fish, garlic, and ice water until a smooth, thick paste is formed. Transfer the paste into a large mixing bowl.
    2. Add the egg, salt, and cornstarch to the paste, mixing everything thoroughly.
    3. Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with oil and heat over medium high heat. Using your hands, take about 2 tablespoons of the fish mixture and shape into a somewhat flat (1/4 -inch/6 mm thick) round disc. Place gently into the oil to pan fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Continue this step until all the fish mixture has been pan-fried. Drain on a paper towel.
    4. To make the Tangy Tamarind Sauce, combine the water, tamarind, and dark brown sugar in a medium sized pot and bring it to a vigorous boil over high heat.
    5. Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, grind the garlic, ground chili pepper, and dried shrimp until smooth. Add to the boiling tama-rind sauce and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Turn off the heat.
    6. Arrange the fish cakes in serving bowls. Ladle the Tangy Tamarind Sauce over the fish cakes and serve immediately.