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7 Popular South Sumatran Foods You Must Try

by Vina Krisna Yanti
Pempek as one of South Sumatran popular foods

You can always find reasons to visit Indonesia. Besides being popular with the beauty of the nature and the diversity in culture, Indonesia is also prominent with the delicious culinary that will give you a new tasty culinary experience.

One of the places in Indonesia that you can visit for an authentic culinary experience is South Sumatra. It is a big province where Ampera Bridge, one of the iconic landmarks of cities in Indonesia sits.

South Sumatran foods are varied but there are some which are so popular among South Sumatrans or even among Indonesians. As your guide to start your culinary adventure in South Sumatra, here is a list of 7 popular South Sumatran foods that you must try.

1. Pempek


Pempek is the most popular food from South Sumatra that is coming from Palembang, the capital city of the province. It is so popular to the point that you can easily find street food vendors selling Pempek in every corner of Indonesia. But still, of course the authentic one comes from the originated place.

Pempek is made from ground fish meat and flour which are then mixed with eggs, garlic, salt, and spices, creating a mixture of Pempek. It is said that Pempek was originally made from Belida fish meat, however since the fish are hard to find nowadays, the food is then made from either river fish or sea fish.

Eating Pempek is always accompanied by a special sauce called cuko. It is made by adding brown sugar, dried brine shrimp, salt, garlic, and ground chilli into hot boiling water, creating a sweet, spicy, and sour sauce.

Cuko looks like soy sauce since it is dark in color and has liquid texture. But the taste is different and for that reason, Pempek is not complete without cuko.

There are many types of Pempek, but the most popular one is Pempek Kapal Selam or roughly translated as submarine Pempek. Well, kinda funny. The name takes after the process of cooking the Pempek.

When it is boiled, the Pempek falls into boiling water and sink. The shape is also bigger than any other types of Pempek. The appearance when cooking the Pempek makes it called as the Submarine Pempek. Well, very unique!

2. Tekwan


Tekwan is also made from the mixture of ground fish meat and flour, similar to Pempek. However, it is shaped similarly to small round fish balls. If you have tasted Pempek and are fond of the taste, then you will definitely love Tekwan.

Tekwan is served with savory and delicious shrimp broth which is then enriched by a sprinkling of celery, fried onions, leeks, vermicelli, and mushrooms.

To enrich the flavor, the fish ball shape dough of Tekwan is also filled with Chinese tofu, adding more enjoyable flavor to the food.

Tekwan is typically enjoyed by groups of people who like to converse and share stories to each other. It is the typical warm food that can warm up the conversation or just lighten up your mood.

3. Mie Celor

Mie Celor

Mie Celor is one of the Indonesia noodle dishes that you ultimately need to try. It is a noodle dish in which the name mie is derived from Bahasa Indonesia, which means noodle.

It comes from Palembang and is made with egg noodle that is wide, long, and straight in shape. Quite similar to the shape of the noodle used in Udon.

The broth in Mie Celor is the one that stands out the most since it offers a new taste coming from the mixture of coconut milk, dried brine shrimp broth, eggs, and tapioca flour, which create a thick and tasty broth that you will definitely love.

When you eat this noodle, you will have a strong scent and taste of seafood on your bite due to the use of the shrimp broth.

Mie Celor is topped with shrimp, slices of boiled eggs, fried onions, and celery, adding more taste to the already delicious noodle and broth. If you are in Palembang, you will need to try this food!

4. Lenggang


Lenggang is a variant of Pempek which is made from ground fish meat, flour, and eggs that are mixed together. The mixture is then placed in box-shaped banana leaf and then roasted with the banana leaf itself.

The use of banana leaf adds uniqueness since the roasted banana leaf creates special aroma with its own distinctive taste. The texture of Lenggang is denser than Pempek since the mixture is made more solid and thicker.

It is usually served with cuko, the special sauce that is used to accompany Pempek. The use of dried brine shrimp in cuko makes the sauce tastes so delicious. Anyway, the dried brine shrimp is called as ebi in Bahasa Indonesia.

5. Burgo


Burgo is a relatively simple food that is originated from Palembang. Burgo is made from rice flour and sago flour that is cooked similarly to thin pancakes. After it is cooked, it is then rolled up and cut into pieces. This process makes burgo looks like noodle that is rolled in larger size.

The slices Burgo is then served with thick coconut milk sauce that is mixed with many spices, such as turmeric, galangal, garlic, candlenut, and coriander. The use of turmeric makes the sauce yellow in color. The sauce adds light but tasty flavor to Burgo, the type of taste that your tongue will easily go with.

Burgo that has been topped with the coconut sauce is then topped again with fish, and slices of boiled egg and boiled chicken. If you want to, you can add extra chilli sauce and lime to make your plate of Burgo more delicious.

6. Pindang Tulang

Pindang Tulang

The name Pindang in Indonesia is typically used to refer to foods that are related to fish. However, South Sumatra has many variations of Pindang dishes that can be made from fish, shrimp, and even bone. Yes, you read it correctly, bone. Bone in Bahasa Indonesia is tulang, that’s why this dish is called as Pindang Tulang.

When having this dish, you will not only be served a mere bone seasoned with Indonesian spices. There are specific criteria of bones that are used in this dish. The bones are cow bones that still have some meat attached to the bones and have bone marrow.

The broth is made from galangal, lemongrass, onion, green chili, turmeric, and garlic. The use of bones as the main figure in the dish also adds more taste to the broth since they are cooked together.

The use of green chilli, on the other hand, adds a hint of spicy taste to the delicious broth.

Pindang Tulang is served with slices of tomato to give a fresh sensation to the dish. A definite dish to try when visiting South Sumatra!

7. Sambal Tempoyak

Sambal Tempoyak

Well, if you are a fan of Indonesian dishes, you might be familiar with sambal, an extra ground chilli sauce added to any dishes to spice up the flavour. But, in this case, the type of sambal is different. Let’s start from the main ingredient of the sambal itself; tempoyak.

Tempoyak is made from fermented durian. Yes, durian. This fermented durian is then mixed with chili sauce, creating what so called as Sambal Tempoyak. This sambal tastes super unique, in a good way, since it tastes sour, spicy, and sweet all together with a hint of durian at the end.

Sambal Tempoyak is typically eaten to accompany boiled soup or just a plate of warm rice. You can add it to your Pindang Tulang, fresh river fish soup, or a plate of warm rice and fried chicken.

Nothing can go wrong with this special sambal. So, if you are in South Sumatra and want to try something new, make sure to give this sambal a try!

There are many other foods that you can try in South Sumatra, like lempok, laksan, lakso, malbi, and so on. The price is also quite inexpensive, depending on the restaurants that you choose as the place to enjoy your meal.

After having a tasty culinary experience in South Sumatra, you are highly suggested to try more Sumatran food by tasting Nort Sumatran foods and delicious foods of West Sumatra, for a more authentic culinary experience. So, what are you waiting for?

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