Indonesia Expat
Featured Food & Drink

The City of Seafoods

The City of Seafoods
The City of Seafoods

Unveiling the culinary uniqueness of the Land of Srivijaya.

As the oldest city in Indonesia, Palembang has, for centuries, succeeded in presenting various delicious culinary dishes in the archipelago. Just like Padang cuisine, Palembang’s food is also well-known for its palate. This culinary journey began with the arrival of traders from China who stopped or settled in the city. Apart from that, Malay, Arab, and Indian cultures also influence Palembang’s culinary mix.

Some say that, in ancient times, much of the food in Palembang was made from pork because, at the time, many Chinese people who lived in Palembang were not Muslim. However, after the emergence of the Palembang Darussalam Sultanate around the 16th century, the raw food ingredient was changed to fish.

Technically, most typical Palembang foods are not seafood, but river food. However, there is no river food category, right? So, Palembang cuisine is considered seafood because they primarily use freshwater fish and prawns as the main ingredients. Even though it is made from freshwater animals, the taste of the dish is no less than real seafood. (Fun fact: pempek is ranked fourth of the best seafood in the world, according to TasteAtlas)

Pempek ranked fourth as the best seafood in the world

Apart from the large number of Muslims in Palembang, the use of fish is a form of managing the city’s rich animal resources. Palembang is not a city that has a sea because of its geographical location in the middle of the mainland. However, this city still has a fairly wide river, namely the Musi River. The Musi River has many types of fish that can be consumed and are highly nutritious, such as lais fish, ikan gabus (snakehead fish), baung fish, patin fish, ikan kakap (snapper) and belida (giant featherback). Belida fish itself is the best type of fish used as raw material for pempek; the meat is very tender and savoury. However, the number of belida fish in the Musi River has started to decline (it is rare today). Therefore, pempek which uses belida fish meat is very expensive.

Typical Palembang foods made of fish usually formed in a lump shape, mostly white or grey. This is due to the making process; the fish is mixed with the sago flour. Fish can be found in any traditional markets in the city, such as Pasar Cinde and Pasar 16 Ilir. Before being used as the food material, the fish has to be ground first. You can ask the vendor to grind it for you. Once it is done, you can now easily process the meat into any kind of dish.


The famous Palembang’s seafood dishes are pempek (fishcake), tekwan (small balls of fish meat served with fresh shrimp soup), model (a type of pempek stuffed with tofu, served with fresh shrimp soup and vermicelli), laksan (a variation of pempek lenjer which is cut into pieces and served with coconut milk sauce), celimpungan (a bigger version of tekwan but with yellow soup), and pindang patin (patin catfish boiled with spices with pineapple slices). Some of them are served dry, like pempek; some others are served with soup, like tekwan and pindang patin. All the dishes are tender, savoury and chewy.

Tekwan, Palembang's traditional meatball dish
Tekwan, Palembang’s traditional meatball dish

You can easily find Palembang’s food throughout the city, starting from street vendors to luxury restaurants, from the morning to the evening. Even, if you stay in a hotel in Palembang, the restaurant staff will serve you with pempek. For a much better experience, you can go to the bank of the Musi River; there are lots of floating restaurants there. Indulge in delectable seafood dishes amidst the picturesque backdrop of the Musi River. Experience an added touch of charm as the restaurant boat gently sways by the waves, creating a truly unique dining sensation.

Here are also some of the top places to taste authentic Palembang cuisine:

1. Pempek Candy

Pempek Candy is one of the largest and most famous pempek restaurants in Palembang. This restaurant certainly provides various types of pempek which are very delicious and savoury. Customers have the option to purchase pre-packaged pempek for takeaway, ideal for enjoying at their leisure or sharing with loved ones at home.

2. Kampung Pempek 26 Ilir

Kampung Pempek 26 Ilir is a pempek market located in 26 Ilir sub-district. Here, you will find a variety of pempek stalls, each with its own unique brand. It is a perfect spot for tourists seeking delicious pempek at budget-friendly prices without compromising on quality.

Pindang Patin
Pindang Patin

3. Pondok Pindang Umak

Pondok Pindang Umak is a pindang restaurant that has been established since 2017. This restaurant already has many branches throughout the city of Palembang. This place provides a variety of delicious and affordable pindang dishes and has a large enough area so it is suitable for eating with a group.

4. River Side Restaurant

River Side Restaurant provides a scenic dining experience overlooking the Musi River and the iconic Ampera Bridge, offering travellers a chance to enjoy the city’s symbols while dining. With a diverse seafood menu, it is a favourite spot for seafood lovers and holds significance as one of President Jokowi’s preferred dining spots.

5. Warung Terapung Mbok War

If you are a tourist craving authentic Palembang cuisine with a scenic view, head to Warung Terapung Mbok War. Situated on the pier of the Musi River near the Ampera Bridge, this eatery offers a delightful dining experience. Enjoy traditional Palembang dishes while feeling the breeze from the river and swaying gently with its waves. It is an unforgettable experience for any visitor.

Palembang stands out as one of Indonesia’s top destinations for culinary enthusiasts, particularly those seafood lovers. Rest assured, you should not depart the city without enjoying its best cuisine. Taste every seafood around the city and you will be longing for more even after you leave Palembang.

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