Pempek Kapal Selam (Indonesian Fried Fish Cake)

Pempek Kapal Selam (Indonesian Fried Fish Cake)

Course: Appetizer, Entree
Cuisine: Indonesian Chinese
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Freezing the fish and fish cakes: 2 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Marvellina
Learn how to make this Indonesian style fried pempek fish cake with sweet spicy saus cuko
Print Recipe


  • 21 oz boneless skinless mackerel fish 600 grams, or any white fish if you must substitute
  • 3 cloves garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper powder
  • 4 Tbsp tapioca flour
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 large bowl of water chilled in the freezer
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil to pan fry pempek
  • 1 small cucumber seeded and diced

Dipping sauce (saus cuko):

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
  • 10 oz brown sugar
  • 2 red chili more if you like it spicier
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • Salt to taste


Preparing the dipping sauce:

  • Place all the ingredients for dipping sauce in a small saucepan and let it cook until the sugar has dissolved. Have a taste and it should be sweet, lightly spicy and savory (more at the sweet side). Remove the garlic and chili. Set aside to serve with the fish cakes later

Making the fish cakes:

  • Roughly cut the fish into chunks. Freeze them in the freezer for about 40 minutes. They should be partially frozen. Place them in a food processor and process into a paste. Add in garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Process again into a smooth mixture
  • Remove from the food processor into a large bowl. Wet your two hands and add in the tapioca flour and use your wet hands to mix in the flour. Next, you may need to wet your hands again. Gather the fish paste and throw it against the side of the bowl. Do this until the fish paste feels "springy". You may need to re-wet your hand along the way while doing this
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Use your wet hands to shape into a ball and then flatten with your palm. Place one hard-boiled egg in the middle of the fish paste and then use your hand to wrap the fish paste around it. Dip your hands in water again to help smooth the surface. Gently place this into a large bowl of ice water. Repeat until you get 4 submarine fish cakes. Place the bowl along with the submarine fish cakes into the freezer for another 30 minutes
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the fish cakes from freezer. Gently place the fish cakes into the boiling water and let them cook until they float to the top. Once they float to the top, I let them cook for another 5 minutes because these are large fish cakes and I want to make sure the inside is cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon into a platter
  • Preheat about 1/4 cup of cooking oil in a non-stick skillet. Place the boiled fish cakes on the pan and let it cook until golden brown. Use a spoon to help you turn the fish cakes around until all sides are golden brown. Remove from heat and place on absorbent paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the fish cakes

When ready to serve:

  • Cut each empek empek into 3-4 pieces. Top with some diced cucumber and spoon the sauce over and serve immediately


This very same recipe can be used to make traditional fish balls too. Just omit the hard-boiled eggs, cucumber, and dipping sauce