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With NUDC 2013 over, I have to say goodbye to Palembang. And for a while, I suppose I would not be attending any more debate tournaments. I really should talk about that discussion we had there about debate being a drug and how it disillusions you, but not now. Now, I’m going to talk about pempek.

Pempek is the signature dish from Palembang. It is basically fishcake, deep-fried then served with sour-spicy sauce.

It’s actually pretty damn common. Not as common as Padang restaurants, but not a rare sight either. You probably have at least tried it once in your lifetime if you live in Indonesia.

Now let me tell you something: those are not pempek.

Look, I was as clueless as you are, but it is true. If you have never tried the original pempek bought in Palembang, then you have no idea what pempek tastes like. The taste is simply richer, having been made with fresh fish and generous ratios. The sauce tastes different. You will never be able to eat the imitations anymore, ever. It is so good I bought a box with me and fried some and felt momentarily in heaven until I finished it, realized that I have returned to Bandung, and felt depressed again,

I am not doing this because I want to brag about my trip to Palembang. Eating real pempek does not make me a better person than before. Nor does it turn me into a food connoiseur. I guess what I have been trying to say is that we try so hard to have as many experiences as possible when it comes down to it. I’ve never been to Japan, but I eat sushi from the restaurant. Never been to Italy, but I eat pizza and pasta. No, I suppose the correct transition should not be “but”, which shows opposing points, but “so” or “because”, to introduce causality.

The gaggle of girls eats at Mujigae because they have never been to Korea.

Yep. Better.

But yes. We watch documentaries, listen to music, eat cuisine, see pictures. We all crave to travel,  deep down. Underneath everything else, we are simply wanderlust.

And I suppose I should feel happy that I have experienced some traveling in my life–not as much as I’d like or as some people have, but more than most–but no. I feel lonely and a bit empty, because I realize that just like pempek all other cuisine I have tasted probably are also pale fakes compared to the real deal. That scares me, that I might not know as much as I think I do. That I still have the whole world and probably more (crossing my fingers for space travel before I grow too old) to  see.

That I might never have enough time or money to do so, and then live forever in ignorance.

But for now, here’s to Palembang–and real pempek.

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