Palembang’s pempek bests nigiri, lobster rolls to rank the 4th best seafood dish in the world

Pempek, AKA Palembang fish cake. Photo: Pixabay
Pempek, AKA Palembang fish cake. Photo: Pixabay

In Indonesia, we get to have fish cake and eat it too, as the Palembang delicacy pempek has been named as one of the best seafood dishes in the world by Taste Atlas.

The Croatia-based online guide for traditional food ranked the Indonesian fish cake fourth in a list of 100, ahead of maguro nigiri sushi, lobster rolls, simiako garidaki, and many more seafood delectables from around the world. 

The three dishes that beat out pempek were Portugal’s amêijoas à bulhão pato at number 1, Spain’s gambas al ajillo at number 2, and Peru’s mixed ceviche at number 3.

For the uninitiated, pempek consists of ground fish meat (preferably Spanish mackerels, in our humble opinion) mixed with tapioca flour and shaped into cylinders and balls. One crowd-pleasing variant, the kapal selam (submarine), is shaped like an underwater vessel containing a whole egg inside the fish cake.

Pempek is steamed and deep fried before serving, allowing the cake to be crunchy on the outside yet chewy and fragrant on the inside. More often than not, pempek is served with cuko, a dark sauce made from vinegar, tamarind, and palm sugar, among others.

So where do you go for the best pempek? Surprisingly, Taste Atlas did not choose a Palembang-based restaurant as its top choice. Not that surprisingly, though, they chose the legendary Pempek 161 in South Jakarta as the best pempek restaurant in the world, followed by another Jakarta favorite, Pempek Megaria.

If you insist on heading to the birthplace of pempek to try the dish, Taste Atlas named Pempek Pak Raden as the top restaurant in the South Sumatra capital. Interestingly, Pempek Pak Raden is so popular that it has opened branches nationwide, including in Jakarta.

Taste Atlas deserves props for also including Palembang’s Pempek Saga Sudi Mampir in its list, but its omission of the legendary Pempek Candy restaurant is certainly a head-scratcher.
You can read Taste Atlas’ best seafood list here and read their pempek entry here.

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