Nestled in the heart of Sumatra, South Sumatra is a vibrant region renowned for its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and of course, its delectable cuisine.

With influences from Malay, Javanese, and Minangkabau cultures, South Sumatran cuisine offers a tantalizing array of flavors, spices, and textures that are sure to delight the senses. From savory delights to sweet treats, the Typical South Sumatran Food reflect the region’s diverse cultural tapestry and its deep connection to the land.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the must-try traditional dishes of South Sumatra, inviting you on a culinary journey to discover the flavors and aromas of this enchanting region.

1. Pempek

No discussion of South Sumatran cuisine would be complete without mentioning pempek, arguably the region’s most famous dish. Originating from Palembang, pempek is a type of savory fishcake made from ground fish (usually mackerel or Spanish mackerel) mixed with tapioca starch and spices.

The mixture is then shaped into various forms, such as balls, cylinders, or squares, before being boiled or fried to perfection.

Pempek is typically served with a tangy, sweet and sour sauce known as kuah cuka, along with cucumbers and noodles. Whether you prefer lenjer, kapal selam, or adaan, pempek is a must-try dish that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more.

2. Tekwan

Another beloved dish from Palembang, tekwan is a comforting soup made with fish, shrimp, mushrooms, and various herbs and spices. The star ingredient of tekwan is fish meatballs, which are made by grinding fish fillets with tapioca starch and seasoning before being formed into balls and cooked in the flavorful broth.

The soup is typically enriched with ingredients like mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and slices of tofu, creating a hearty and nourishing dish that’s perfect for any occasion. Tekwan is often enjoyed as a breakfast dish or as a comforting meal on rainy days, and its warm, fragrant broth is sure to soothe the soul and warm the heart.

3. Pindang Patin

Pindang patin is a traditional fish dish that hails from South Sumatra and is renowned for its rich, aromatic flavors. The dish features patin, a type of freshwater catfish that is prized for its tender flesh and delicate flavor.

The fish is simmered in a flavorful broth made from tamarind, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, and various spices, which impart a tangy, savory, and slightly spicy taste to the dish.

Pindang patin is often served with steamed rice and a side of sambal, a fiery chili paste that adds an extra kick of heat to the dish. With its tantalizing blend of flavors and textures, pindang patin is a true taste of South Sumatra’s culinary heritage.

4. Mie Celor

Mie celor is a popular noodle dish that originated from Palembang and has since become a beloved staple throughout South Sumatra.

The dish features chewy egg noodles served in a creamy, savory broth made from coconut milk, shrimp broth, and various spices. The broth is typically flavored with ingredients like garlic, shallots, turmeric, and lemongrass, which impart a rich, aromatic flavor to the dish.

Mie celor is often garnished with toppings such as boiled eggs, shrimp, fried shallots, and fresh herbs, adding layers of texture and flavor to the dish. Whether enjoyed as a comforting meal on a cool evening or as a hearty lunchtime treat, mie celor is a must-try dish for noodle lovers and food enthusiasts alike.

5. Pindang Serani

Pindang serani is a traditional fish soup that originated from the Serasan village in South Sumatra and is known for its distinctive sweet and sour flavor profile. The dish features slices of freshwater fish (such as patin or baung) that are simmered in a flavorful broth made from tamarind, palm sugar, garlic, shallots, and various spices.

The combination of tangy tamarind and sweet palm sugar creates a harmonious balance of flavors that is both refreshing and satisfying. Pindang serani is often served with steamed rice and a side of fresh vegetables or sambal, making it a versatile and comforting dish that’s perfect for any occasion.

6. Es Kacang Merah

No South Sumatran meal would be complete without a sweet treat to satisfy your cravings, and es kacang merah fits the bill perfectly. This refreshing dessert features red beans that are cooked until tender and sweetened with palm sugar, creating a rich, velvety texture and a delightful caramel-like flavor.

The beans are then served chilled over a bed of shaved ice and topped with creamy coconut milk, grass jelly, and sweetened condensed milk. The result is a decadent and indulgent dessert that provides the perfect balance of sweetness, creaminess, and refreshment on a hot day.

7. Sate Padang

Sate Padang is a beloved dish that originated from the Padang region of West Sumatra but has gained popularity throughout South Sumatra and beyond.

It consists of skewered and grilled meat – typically beef or chicken – that is marinated in a flavorful mixture of spices and seasonings, including turmeric, coriander, garlic, and shallots. The marinated meat is then grilled over charcoal until tender and caramelized, imparting a smoky flavor to the dish.

Sate Padang is typically served with a generous dollop of rich, spicy, and aromatic peanut sauce, along with steamed rice cakes (ketupat) or rice cubes. The combination of tender meat and flavorful sauce makes sate Padang a favorite street food snack and a must-try dish for meat lovers.

8. Gulai Tempoyak

Gulai tempoyak is a traditional Sumatran dish that combines the rich, savory flavors of gulai (a type of curry) with the tangy, pungent taste of tempoyak (fermented durian).

The dish features tender chunks of meat – often beef, chicken, or fish – that are simmered in a fragrant curry sauce made from coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, and a blend of spices.

The addition of tempoyak adds a unique and complex flavor to the dish, with hints of sourness, sweetness, and umami that complement the rich and creamy curry sauce. Gulai tempoyak is typically served with steamed rice and a side of fresh vegetables, providing a hearty and satisfying meal that’s bursting with flavor.

9. Pempek Panggang

Pempek panggang is a delicious variation of the classic pempek dish that is baked instead of fried, giving it a unique texture and flavor profile. To make pempek panggang, the pempek mixture is shaped into large logs or rolls and then baked in the oven until golden brown and crispy on the outside, while still tender and moist on the inside.

The baked pempek is then sliced into bite-sized pieces and served with kuah cuka (sweet and sour sauce) and slices of cucumber. Pempek panggang offers a healthier alternative to traditional fried pempek, making it a popular choice for those looking to enjoy this iconic dish without the guilt.

10. Kerupuk Palembang

Kerupuk Palembang, also known as emping Palembang, is a type of crispy cracker made from the starchy pulp of the melinjo fruit, which is native to South Sumatra. The pulp is ground into a paste, shaped into thin, flat discs, and then sun-dried until crisp and crunchy.

Kerupuk Palembang is typically seasoned with salt and other spices, giving it a savory and flavorful taste that pairs perfectly with dips and sauces. It is often served as a snack or appetizer alongside meals, providing a satisfying crunch and burst of flavor that is sure to whet the appetite.


South Sumatran cuisine is a true reflection of its rich cultural heritage, diverse culinary traditions and deep connection to its homeland.

From savory dishes like pempek and tekwan to comforting dishes like pindang patin and mie celor, South Sumatra offers a variety of tantalizing flavors and aromas that are sure to delight the senses and satisfy even the most discerning palate.

Whether you’re a culinary adventurer looking for new taste sensations or a culinary enthusiast looking to explore the vibrant flavors of Indonesia, traditional South Sumatran dishes are a must-try experience that will leave you hooked.

So pack your bags, sharpen your chopsticks, and get ready to embark on a Palembang Specialty Food journey, where every dish is a celebration of taste, tradition and community.