Another place in Indonesia with unique taste in their culinary is Medan. The city is located on North Sumatra. Culinary in Medan is based on traditional recipe from Batak, a native ethnicity from North Sumatra. While most people in Indonesia are Muslim, in Medan, most of the people are Christian. Therefore, do not get surprised if you find pork or dog meats on their foods. They also like to use animal’s blood as the ingredients to enrich the flavors.

Besides the pork, dog meat, and the blood, Batak people also uses many kind of herbs, spices, and unique method of cooking to make various unique dishes. Their special spice is Andaliman. Andaliman is a spice similar to pepper but biologically it is closely related to citrus. Andaliman is not a common spice used in a cooking outside Batak. But in Medan, almost all Batak cuisine uses this unique spice.

Now, check out the Batak culinary below for your reference:

1. Sambal Tuktuk

Sambal is a condiment made of a mixture of chili and spices. Almost every region in Indonesia has its own traditional sambal. In Batak, they have Sambal Tuktuk. One ingredient that makes Sambal Tuktuk different than any other sambal is andaliman which is frequently used in Batak culinary.

The Spicy Sambal Tuktuk (Source: Flickr. Credit: Putu Trisna Dewi)
The Spicy Sambal Tuktuk
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Putu Trisna Dewi)

Sambal Tuktuk is mostly added with dried aso-aso fish. It is a kind of preserved mackerel. But occasionally, the aso-aso fish is replaced with dried anchovies. Because it is a condiment, then Sambal Tuktuk is available in almost every restaurants and food stands throughout Medan.


2. Saksang

One extreme culinary you might want to try in Medan is Saksang. The dish is made from either pork or dog meat. Plus, the gravy is made from its blood mixed with coconut milk and other spices such as lime, bay leaves, coriander, onion, garlic, pepper, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, turmeric, and the unique andaliman.

Saksang Being Cooked in a Big Wok (Source: Flickr. Credit: le sac perdu)
Saksang Being Cooked in a Big Wok
(Source: Flickr. Credit: le sac perdu)

Tourists might find it weird and rather disgusting to eat dog meat or animal’s blood gravy. But, for Batak people, the dish is very special and significant. It is often used in many Batak traditional ceremonies such as funeral and sacred rituals. On every wedding ceremony in Batak culture, Saksang is an obligatory dish. The dish has a strong savory and spicy taste. Sometimes, a buffalo meat and blood is used to replace pork or dog meat.


3. Mie Gomak

Mie Gomak is a serving of noodle traditional from Batak. Sometimes, people call this food as “Batak Spaghetti” because noth of them has the similar look. The word “Mie” means noodles. Meanwhile, the word “Gomak” is taken from folk language “digomak-gomak” which means “being touched by hand”. This is because when cooking the noodle, the cook takes the noodle with their bare hands. They also use their hands to mix the ingredients.

For some people, it may sound a little bit disgusting even if the cook always wash their hands first before cooking the noodle. But now, there are several cooks that use gloves when cooking Mie Gomak to ensure people about the hygiene.

The ingredients and spiced used in Mie Gomak are onion, garlic, chili, lemongrass, ginger, andaliman, and coconut milk. Chicken and sausage are also added. When serving it, they also put some diced cabbage and fried onion.

A Serving of Spicy Fried Mie Gomak (Source: Flickr. Credit: Herwin Sinaga)
A Serving of Spicy Fried Mie Gomak
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Herwin Sinaga)

There are three ways to serve Mie Gomak. Mie Gomak goreng is a fried dry version of Mie Gomak. Mie Gomak rebus is Mie Gomak with gravy. And then there is Mie Gomak Bumbu Kacang where Mie Gomak is served with peanut sauce.


4. Na Niura

Na Niura is a unique dish made from Goldfish. Literally, Na Niura means “an uncooked fish” which represent the truth. But due to the unique seasoning technique, the fish would not be served raw. First, the goldfish is cleaned and cut to be fillet pieces. The goldfish fillet is then marinated with a mixture of dishes and something called “asam jingga”. Asam Jingga is a sour fruit commonly used in Medan. This fruit will have a sort of natural chemical reaction with the fish that will naturally “cook” it.

Delicious Na Niura (Source: Flickr. Credit: Irni Audita)
Delicious Na Niura
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Irni Audita)

Na Niura taste sour and spicy. Even if the fish was not really cooked, you will not smell or taste the fishiness like common raw fishes. This is due to the natural chemical reaction from the Asam Jingga. If there is no Asam Jingga, they sometimes use lime instead. But it will not taste as delicious as using Asam Jingga. Na Niura is best eaten with warm rice.


5. Arsik

Similar to Na Niura, Arsik is also a dish made from Goldfish. But the difference is, the goldfish is really cooked in Arsik dish. While cooking Arsik, you do not need to remove the scales. Arsik uses many kinds of spices including andaliman, which is the iconic spice of Batak cuisine. To cook it, the fish is boiled or steamed after it is been marinated with spices.

A Serving of Goldfish Arsik (Source: Flickr. Credit: Shirley Theresia)
A Serving of Goldfish Arsik
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Shirley Theresia)

There are two style of Arsik serving. Traditional Batak Karo sub-ethnicity will cook Arsik until it gets really dry. Meanwhile, the Batak Tapanuli sub-ethnicity will leave out some gravy on their Arsik. The spices used in both dish are slightly different. Arsik can only use another kind of fish such as mackerel or snapper fish. Sometimes, pork is also used in Arsik instead of fish.


6. Babi Panggang Karo

Babi panggang means “grilled pork”. Basically it is similar to regular grilled pork. But the pork is seasoned with special mixture of spices traditionally from Batak Karo ethnicity. Babi Panggang Karo or commonly known as BPK, is a favorite dish for Medan people. You can easily find a restaurant which sells this food.

A Spicy Babi Panggang Karo in a Plate (Source: Flickr. Credit: Sunu Po)
A Spicy Babi Panggang Karo in a Plate
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Sunu Po)

Babi Panggang Karo is usually eaten with rice. Sambal Tuktuk or Sambal Darah Babi is also served along with this grilled pork as a condiment to add the spiciness. I have explained about Sambal Tuktuk before. Meanwhile, Sambal Darah Babi literally means “Sambal of Pig’s Blood”. As strange as it sound, the sambal indeed uses the pig’s blood as the main ingredients. According to Batak people, pig’s blood is the perfect condiment to match with the pork.


Now that we have done giving out a reference for unique Batak culinary, we would like to recommend some restaurant where you can try these tasty foods. Here we go:

  • RM Toho Do is located on Kompleks Ruko Griya Martubung – Medan, Jalan Jaring Raya No. 17 Blok XI Griya Martubung, Medan Labuhan.
  • Dapur Batak Roma is located on Jalan Pabrik Tenun no 54, Medan
  • Rumah Makan Sipirok is located on Jalan Sunggal No. 14, Medan
  • RM Grill Batak Ondo is located on Jalan Pabrik Tenun No 45, Medan

Altough most of the foods on Batak cuisine uses pork, dog meat, and blood as the main ingredients, does not mean there is no ”halal” food in Medan. There is a sub-ethnicity in Medan called Batak Mandailing where most of the people are Muslims. So if you are Muslims trying to taste Batak culinary, try finding a restaurant with Batak Mandailing style or the ones with ”Halal” label on it. Itis not that hard to find.


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