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Saus Cuko Pempek - Palembang Fish Cake Sauce

Pempek is deep fried fish cakes served with its signature dark fiery sauce hailing from the city of Palembang, the provincial capital of South Sumatra. The range of fish cakes varies from the plain round balls to big triangular ones stuffed with hard boiled eggs, they are all typically deep fried in hot oil just prior to serving. The best thing I like about pempek is the sauce, made with palm sugar, tamarind, garlic, and Thai chili. Making the sauce is simple enough, as long as you can find all the ingredients. The tricky part is to make the fish cakes, which if you love short cuts (like me), just get some fish balls, or any Japanese fish cakes and deep fried them. Seriously, they will still be amazingly great with the sauce. ♥

Saus Cuko Pempek - Palembang Fish Cake Sauce

Saus Cuko Pempek - Palembang Fish Cake Sauce

Saus Cuko Pempek - Palembang Fish Cake Sauce

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 20 mins

Serves: 4

Print Recipe


  • Saus Cuko (Pempek Sauce)
  • 2 cloves garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih), peeled
  • 1-2 Thai chilies (Indonesian: cabe rawit), seeded (optional)
  • 100 gram palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa)
  • 25 gram tamarind (Indonesian: asam Jawa)
  • 400 ml water
  • Accompaniment
  • deep fried fish balls / fish cakes
  • slices of cucumber


  1. Grind garlic and chilies into a paste.
  2. Place all sauce ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Keep stirring until all the palm sugar has dissolved. Strain to remove tamarind pulps and seeds.
  3. Serve the sauce with deep fried fish balls and cucumber slices.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Mia Farrell Mia Farrell says:

    Hello Anita, Saya ingin sekali tahu bagaimana bikin empek empek dengan menggunakan fishcake yang bisa saya beli dari supermarket Asia. Jadi saya tidak usah membuat fishcake karena bisa dibeli. Saya hanya ingin tahu bagaimana membuat empek empek saja. Terima kasih yang tak terhingga ! Salam manis, Mia

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Mia, biasanya saya beli bakso ikan polos saja, dan digoreng dengan minyak panas setelah dicelupkan di dalam kocokan telur dan tepung terigu. Semoga membantu :)

  • Mita Mita says:

    Wow mbak Anita ini keren banget. Telah banyak mempromosikan masakan indonesia ke dunia. Terima kasih, semoga masakan kita lebih terkenal lagi

  • Mdm Lee Mdm Lee says:

    Is this sauce meant to be watery. When Sugar dissolved sauce is not thickened at all. I continued to stir till 1/3 left. So little sauce against 400 ml liquid .

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Mdm Lee, yes the sauce is supposed to be watery :) Some people even add boiled egg noodles or rice noodles to eat with the sauce and the fried fish cakes.

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