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Pempek Ayam Lenjer - Fried Chicken Sticks

Pempek is Indonesian fish cakes, very similar to Japanese fish cakes. Our pempek is made from a mixture of ground fish and tapioca flour and comes in various shapes.

Regardless of their shapes, they are first boiled, then fried, and finally cut into small pieces, and served with saus cuko, a rather thick, spicy, and sweet tamarind sauce.

Pempek is primarily made from ikan tenggiri (spanish mackerel). But you can make it with other white firm flesh fish too, like cod. Today I am going to share with you a rather unexpected recipe for pempek ayam lenjer - fried chicken sticks using ground chicken!

Pempek Ayam Lenjer - Fried Chicken Sticks
Pempek Ayam Lenjer - Fried Chicken Sticks

Anchovy stocks and ground dried shrimps to rescue

This ground chicken pempek tastes very similar to Indonesian pempek, and most probably cannot tell they are not made from fish if you don’t reveal the secret.

To trick our tastebuds, you will need some anchovy stock and some ground dried shrimps. You can use Korean anchovy dashida, or buy Korean anchovies and ground into powder.

The dried shrimps are used in the sauce, but if you don’t want to buy another product, you can also just use the same anchovy stock for the sauce.

Another alternative if you don’t have anchovy stock is to use Japanese dashi stock. Your pempek will still have that desired fish flavor, but I prefer the one with anchovy stock.

Pempek Ayam Lenjer - Fried Chicken Sticks
Pempek Ayam Lenjer - Fried Chicken Sticks

There is no need to fry them all!

This recipe makes a rather large batch of pempek. You can freeze some of the pempek after step 5 and fry in the future as needed.

You need to follow the recipe up to step 5, that is, until the boiling step.

Once boiled and chilled to room temperature, wrap each log with a saran wrap, then store them in a large freezer bag.

When you want to have some pempek, grab some of the frozen boiled chicken sticks and let them thaw, then proceed from step 6.

Pempek Ayam Lenjer - Fried Chicken Sticks
Pempek Ayam Lenjer - Fried Chicken Sticks

Pempek Ayam Lenjer - Fried Chicken Sticks

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 3 hours

Serves: 6-8

Print Recipe


  • Pempek ayam lenjer (chicken sticks)
  • 500 gram skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 50 gram shallot
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 150 ml (10 tablespoon) ice cold water
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon anchovy/dashi stock granules
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 125 gram all purpose flour
  • 450 gram - 600 gram tapioca flour
  • Saus cuko (spicy tamarind sauce)
  • 3-5 gram dried red chilies, seeded, soaked in hot water until softened
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 200 gram palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
  • 100 gram sugar
  • 40 gram tamarind
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon ground dried shrimps (or 1 tablespoon anchovy/dashi stock granules, or 1/2 tablespoon toasted shrimp paste)
  • 600 ml water
  • Accompaniments (optional)
  • thinly sliced cucumbers
  • boiled egg noodles


  • Pempek ayam lenjer (chicken sticks)
    1. Place chicken breast, shallot, garlic, and ice cold water in a food processor. Ground into a smooth paste, then transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
    2. In a small sauce pot, boil together water, salt, sugar, anchovy/dashi stock granules, and fish sauce. Add all purpose flour and keep stirring until a thick paste is formed. Turn off heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
    3. Add the thick cooked flour paste to the ground chicken mixture, mix well. Add enough tapioca flour to the mixture, and keep on stirring, and finally kneading with hand into a thick dough. Stop adding tapioca flour once you can scoop a bit of the dough and shape into a small log and it can hold its shape.
    4. Divide into equal 24 portions. Shape each into a 1" diameter log.
    5. Boil a large pot of water in a soup pot. In batches, gently drop the logs into boiling water and cook until the logs float to the surface. Once they float, continue boiling for another 4 minutes. Remove the cooked logs to a strainer/colander. Repeat for the remaining logs. I usually cook 6 pieces at a time, for a total of 4 batches.
    6. Heat 1/2" of oil in a frying pan, fry the boiled chicken logs until golden brown. Set aside over wire rack to remove excess oil.
  • Saus cuko (spicy tamarind sauce)
    1. Puree soaked dried red chilies and garlic in a food processor, then transfer to a sauce pot along with the rest of the sauce ingredients.
    2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
    3. Turn off heat, strain to get a clear sauce.
  • To serve
    1. Cut the fried chicken sticks into bite size pieces and place in a bowl. Top with a bit of the spicy tamarind sauce. Serve with accompaniments if preferred.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Tuty Tuty says:

    Thanks for sharing this recipe Anita. The pempek looks so delicious. I will give this a try soon.

    • Anita Anita says:

      You are welcome Tuty :) I hope you will like it.

  • Vicky Vicky says:

    Hi Anita, I'm excited to try this out but I must have missed something. your recipe shows only the ingredients , steps to make the Cuko and serving it

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Vicky, thanks for letting me know that part of the recipe instruction is missing! This happened because I recently migrated the site. It is now fixed and the instructions are complete.

  • Lisa Lisa says:

    Hi Anita, thanks for sharing the recipe! I'm just wondering if I can use 500 grams fish instead of chicken, and if so, are there anything that needs to be altered in the ingredients? Thank you and can't wait to try out your recipe.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Lisa, you certainly can. I would reduce the amount of anchovy/dashi stock granules from 2 teaspoons to 1 teaspoon for the pempek, and keep everything else the same.

  • Syarifa Syarifa says:

    Hi Anita, Can I keep the pempek in the fridge after I boil it? So, I only fry pempek when I am going to eat it. Thanks, Syarifa

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Syarifa, you can certainly do that. :)

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