Tekwan Recipe (Palembang Fish Balls Soup)

Have you entered your chances to get an English edition of Indonesian Street Snack – Sweet and Savory Treats Cookbook?


Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra is famous for its freshwater fish recipes such as pempek (fishcake with spicy tamarind sauce), otak-otak (grilled fishcake in banana leaves), pindang patin (spicy sour basa fish soup with tempoyak), tekwan (fish balls soup) as well as durian. Tempoyak (fermented durian) is also a popular South Sumatran side which can be made for sambal and thrown into pindang patin.

In the past, during the Hindu-Buddhist civilizations and long before a country of Indonesia was formed, Palembang was a capital of a maritime empire, Srivijaya-an ethnic Malay kingdom on Sumatra which influenced much of the Maritime Southeast Asia. That history has made Palembang one of the oldest cities in Indonesia. Palembang is also the second-largest city in Sumatra after Medan and the seventh-largest city in Indonesia.

You can find many different recipes of tekwan. I slightly changed them with the way of making mie sop ayam medan broth by adding jicama. So this recipe will need more jicama than regular tekwan. The people of Java likes making tekwan with ikan tenggiri (king or Spanish mackerel) while the South Sumatrans like using freshwater fish such as ikan belida (featherback fish) and ikan gabus (snakehead fish)

Tekwan Recipe
Palembang Fish Balls Soup

Fish Balls
250 grams featherback (belida) fish paste
1 clove garlic, smashed and roasted
2 shallot, halved and roasted
2 tablespoons ebi (dried shrimps)
1 (50 milliliter) egg white
100 milliliter icy water (about 4 degrees Celcius)
175 grams sago starch (Thanks to Tanya who brought me 2 packages of Indonesian sagu tani brand from Singapore)
3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 liter water for boiling the fish balls

For the Soup:
2 liter water
1 bottle (236 milliliter) clam juice* (optional)
250 grams black tiger prawns
1 tablespoon ebi (dried shrimps)
150 g jicama, peeled and quartered (can be substituted for carrots)
8 cloves garlic, smashed
2 shallots, halved
kosher salt
ground white pepper

Other Ingredients:
200 grams jicama, julienned
25 grams dried lily flowers, soaked in hot water
25 grams dried black fungus, soaked in hot water
30 grams Chinese celery (divide into two, chopped finely for condiments and the other half for broth)
2 green onions, finely sliced
fried shallot flakes
slices of nasranan mandarin (jeruk sambal), calamansi (jeruk kasturi, lemon cui) or lime (optional)
sambal cabai hijau/green chilies (optional)
dried rice vermicelli (optional)

1. Peel the prawn shells off. Reserve the shells and heads and place them on a baking pan. Broil them with garlic and shallot at high about 5 minutes or until turning red (about 5 minutes). Transfer garlic, shallot, the roasted shrimp skins and heads into a large pot. Add 2 liter water, clam juice, ebi and jicama, cook slowly at medium heat, bring to a boil. Strain the stock, measure to 1750 milliliter.

2. Chop the peeled prawns. Set aside.

3. Fish Balls:

  • In a food processor, grind roasted garlic and shallot with ebi until smooth. Add other ingredients for fish balls and process until well mix.
  • In a pot, boil about 2 liter of water until bubbling, reduce the heat, maintain the temperature about 80 degrees Celsius. Take a half tablespoon of fish ball dough and shape into small marble balls by using two tablespoons. Drop into the pot until the fish balls are floated.  Transfer the cooked fish balls into the shrimp stock, and continue cooking until the stock boils.

4.  Add chopped prawn,  soaked black fungus and lily flowers into the soup.  Season with ground white pepper and kosher salt.  Re-boil the soup until the prawn turning red.

5. Serving suggestion: transfer the soup into a bowl, add soften rice vermicelli (optional), and garnish with fried shallot flakes, sliced green onion and chopped Chinese celery. Serve with sambal hijau (green chili sambal).

Cook’s Note:
* Clam Juice is easy to find in Canada. However if you are not able to get it, don’t bother just add more water that is equal and more ebi.

About the Author

An Indonesian-born who lived in Winnipeg, Canada for more than a decade prior to move to Edmonton in 2017. Indonesia Eats is a memoir of her homeland.