Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Weekend in Medan: What to Eat

Christmas is coming but I will not be coming home for Christmas this year and neither will my little brother who currently makes a living in Medan, the fourth largest city in Indonesia and the largest city outside Java.

Since both of us are stranded far away from home and KL-Medan is just 45 minutes away by air, I thought of visiting him - considering I had not seen my brother for 2 years already and never been to Medan either. About 2-3 weeks ago, I abruptly booked air tickets and 4D3N accommodation for the three of us. A couple hours later, soon after we settled the technical glitches from booking everything online, it was confirmed - we were flying to Medan a week before Christmas.

Last Friday, we flew to Medan for the first time. Naomi cried buckets when we had to put her mini Princess Sofia luggage to the scanner in the airport. She was not exactly a behaved little girl during the short flight either. She refused to fold the tray table in front of her during take-off and landing, despite few passing air stewardess and steward 's constant reprimands on this matter.

Anyway, about an hour later, we finally landed in Medan! I was quite excited to meet my brother again and have a short getaway but didn't set my expectation high from this city as my brother and best friend had told me that there's nothing much to see in Medan, especially if we don't go further to Lake Toba or Berastagi. Before we went to Medan, I had passed a list of the places that we wanted to see and food that we wanted to try in Medan to my brother.


Once we arrived to Medan, I told my brother that I was ravenous so he brought us to a famous old-fashioned restaurant/bakery in the city before checking in to our hotel. I was surprised to see that there was a lot of people patron this fairly old restaurant although it was not dinner time yet. People just kept coming to buy their old-style sliced cakes.

The famous Tip Top Restaurant, Medan.

My brother mentioned that the most celebrated dish in the restaurant is their Fried Rice which he ordered. My husband and I tasted a small spoon of his Fried Rice and it was actually very tasty with a tad of burnt taste like the rice was fried on a very big fire or something. However, we felt that the fried rice was quite oily too.

Nasi Goreng Tip Top.

While my brother took less than a minute to pick his food choice, I needed more time examining their menu. I noticed Risol or Risoles in Tip Top's menu so I quickly asked for one Beef Risoles and one Chicken Risoles because it's been ages since I ate Risoles. I was kind of disappointed though when the Risoles came to our table had no accompanying Tauco sauce but just normal chilli sauce. Apparently, Risoles in Medan is served this way.

Tip Top Chicken Risol.

For my main dish, I ordered Nasi Capcay. I was recovering from irritating Bronchitis when I went to Medan so I avoided food that would trigger my relentless phlegmy cough as much as possible. The Nasi Capcay that I ordered hit home. It was so good and reminded me of the Nasi Capcay that my parents used to buy for me when I was young. No ginger slices and simply wonderful. In fact, I also bought back one more Nasi Capcay for my little vegetable lover so she could eat this for dinner in the hotel. She was napping when we were dining in this restaurant.

Yum yum!

My husband wanted to eat Nasi Padang instead so his early dinner was a spicy one.

Nasi Padang.

This is the display of famous old-fashioned cakes that this restaurant sells. When I observed that so many people queue for the cakes, I just had to get some too. I bought two small chocolate cakes and a horn pastry (Kue Cum Cum) for our snack in the hotel.

Tip Top's old-style cakes or cake jadul.

I think the food in Tip Top was good but must say that their food price is slightly on the high side. Our total bill came out about 250k IDR for 4 dishes (including Naomi's) and 3 drinks. One dish like Fried Rice or Nasi Capcay roughly cost 30k IDR but their sliced cakes were not expensive - one slice was about 5.5k IDR or 6k IDR (less than RM 2).

Tip Top Restaurant
Address: Jalan Jenderal Ahmad Yani (Jalan Kesawan) No. 92 A-B, Medan, North Sumatera, 20111

Right after we had our early dinner in Tip Top, my brother drove us to our hotel so we could check in and freshen up. After shower, my brother took us to Centrepoint Mall which was just a stone's throw away from our hotel.

For breakfast, we ate in the hotel because our accommodation was inclusive of breakfast buffet.

Naomi having her breakfast in Pyjamas.

Having our breakfast in the hotel was actually a good idea so we could take our time in the morning and my brother didn't have to rush to find us so early as he lives quite far away from our hotel.


On our second day in Medan, my brother introduced us to a typical Batak cuisine or Nasi Batak which meals are mainly made or pork or dog meat (so I heard). Batak people are majority Christian so their diet is not restricted to halal food. My brother ordered an array of food with pork for our lunch. No dog meat please.

Our Nasi Batak Spread.

I am never a big fan of pork so I cannot really comment on this cuisine. I didn't really eat the roast pork, fried pork and Saksang (pork and pork organ cooked in spices and blood - first dish on the top left) but I did try a bit of each of them. Last week, I didn't know that Saksang was cooked in blood too so I tried it. I only found out about this when I read about it in Wikipedia just now. If I knew, I surely would have not put any in my mouth.

Anyway, I ate my white rice mostly with the super spicy sambal tempe with anchovies and the green veggie dish. I love tempe more than pork. Naomi ate her rice with the roast and fried pork and the mushy green vegetable dish which was not spicy at all.

Local sarsaparilla drink for my husband and brother.

My brother taught us that there were two different chilli sauces (sambal) to go with the pork dishes. I forgot which one goes for the roast pork and which one goes for the fried pork. As there were three sambal-like condiments in our table, I poured each of them onto my saucer. When my brother saw me doing that, he quickly informed me that the darkest or brown sauce was not exactly a sambal, it was blood. I shrieked.

Dapur Batak Roma
Address: Jalan Pabrik Tenun no. 54 Medan
Phone: +62 61 414 8664

After lunch, we checked out some places around Medan but I will blog about these places separately; else, you would have to scroll down this blog post until tomorrow.


My brother's girlfriend proposed to go to Sunggal to check out a famous tourist spot and try a well-known local dish in the area. Sunggal is an out-skirt area in Medan so it took us about 1 hour to get there by car. I must warn you that the roads to get there from the city were very bumpy. In fact, I think most of the roads in Medan need to be fixed, man... A large part of Medan's road infrastructure is sadly now in dire condition and the traffic jams are simply horrible in many spots day and night. Can you believe that I actually went down to buy some mineral water in a mini mart during a traffic jam at night and found my brother's car was still in the same exact spot as I left it?

Moving on, to find the famous Heci shop in Sunggal was not easy. The shop was located in a rather remote place. At first, I thought GPS gave my brother's girlfriend a very wrong information because we were led to some very ulu location in a village with a small road. But trust the local. We did find the shop and mind you, this small shop in this remote kampong was full house and so many people bought back many packets of the Heci too. I heard that people from the city purposely drive to this small shop in Sunggal to enjoy their Heci.

In front of the Tau Kua Heci shop in Sunggal.

My brother's girlfriend helped us order two portions of the well-known Heci for us to try. When the Heci arrived to our table, I could only think that this Heci is quite a departure from the Heci I know in East Java, although both are deep fried. However, to me, this Heci Medan shares the same concept with Malaysia's Wu Xiang Xia Bing.

Tau Kua Heci Sunggal.

A plate of Heci Medan consists of a fried prawn cracker, two big deep fried shrimps, two crab fritters, two slices of fried tofu and blanched Kangkung covered in generous red sweet sauce. A small pate of Heci like this cost 27k IDR (or almost RM 10). In the beginning, I thought this one was really expensive for random deep fried snack sold in a remote village. Then, I put my thinking cap on again... Hey, there were shrimps and crabs in this plate so it made sense that this one was a bit pricey.

Other than Heci, the famed dishes from this shop are Emie and Mee Rebus. I think they also sell Satay but I don't remember much about the Satay as we didn't buy any. We also tried a plate of Emie just for the sake of trying it since we were already there. My brother's girlfriend raised that Heci and Emie are also widely available in the city but the famous ones were these ones from Sunggal.

Emie Sunggal.

So... Emie tasted weird. The thin yellow noodle was served with some tofu, blanched bean sprouts and lots of crackers on top. The thick brown sauce was sweet and had a very strong ginger aroma which I despise. Even my brother's girlfriend was not a fan and refused to eat the Emie after one bite... Guess who managed to wiped it clean in our pack? The one and only Naomi. She loved it.


Mie Aceh was in our food-to-eat list so my brother also made us try Mie Aceh in town right after we left Sunggal. That day, I felt like I was emulating Sarah Benjamin. We were on a constant eating roll, travelling around Medan and eating endless different food in a day just for the sake of trying them. Watch out, Sarah.. I might be hosting Must Try Asia Medan soon.

Mie Aceh Titi Bobrok.

I have never seen a local restaurant which basically just sells noodle and rujak plus some snacks so huge, showcasing tons of yellow noodles in their display. BTW, it was only around 4pm and this two-storey restaurant was packed with people eating noodle or fruit rujak.

Mie Aceh is a spicy thick noodle dish, usually served with slices of beef, mutton or seafood. Chicken was indeed not in their menu. Why ah? Since there was no chicken available, I chose Mie Aceh with beef. Mie Aceh usually comes in two variations - fried (goreng) or soup. I asked for the one in between goreng and soup as an attempt to eat less oily food.

Yum yum.

Mie Aceh was very tasty and overall, I felt that it was similar to Mie Goreng Jawa - perhaps because they're cooked in spicy paste. We only ordered one plate as all of us were still full from our heavy lunch and Heci. A plate of Mie Aceh was not expensive. I had to fork out 12.5k IDR for a plate of noodle with meat like the above.

Mie Aceh Titi Bobrok
Address: Jalan Setia Budi no. 17C Medan


Selat Panjang is Medan's Hokkien-Chinese food street heaven. It's tucked in an alley which is peppered with carts selling local food, Pasar Malam kind of toys, cold dessert and rainbow-coloured traditional kue/kuih. There are also a lot of old Chinese restaurants behind the food carts where people can have a sit-down meal. I think some or maybe all the restaurant owners would allow diners to eat the food they bought from outside (food carts along the alley) provided they also order food from the restaurant. To be safe, better check with the restaurant owner first before eating outside food inside the restaurant premise.

In front of the famous Chicken Rice shop.

My brother and his girlfriend brought us to Selat Panjang to try the Hainan Chicken Rice. The Chicken Rice was sold in an old restaurant and again, this small restaurant was full of diners during dinner time. I don't know what my brother's girlfriend exactly order for our Chicken Rice as she spoke to the owner in Hokkien but the Chicken Rice set that came to our table looked like this.

Chicken Rice set in Medan.

Each set came with a fragrant rice accompanied by a bowl of soup and a plate of tofu, roast and steam chicken meat, shrimps, braised eggs and vegetables. The rice was somewhat oily though.

We live to eat.

My brother and his girlfriend bought some food from outside for us to try. They said the yummy one was the Es Campur but I didn't taste any.

 Medan's Chee Cheong Fun.

We tried Medan's Chee Cheong Fun but it was bleh... Plain and greasy Chee Cheong Fun served with green chilli sauce and fried shallots. That's it.

Sate Padang.

A packet of Sate Padang that my brother bought had clam, beef and chicken satays. The satay sauce was quite different from the ones in Java and Malaysia. Personally, I still prefer the usual peanut satay sauce in my home town or here in Malaysia. My brother said that the satays should be safe for pregnant mother's consumption because the meat was already slow-cooked in yellow spice sauce before the seller grilled the satays.

Yummy Bakpao at the end of the Selat Panjang street.

Before we concluded our gastronomical experience in Selat Panjang, we went to buy some steamed buns or Bao/Bakpao. I was aiming to buy Chicken Bao but the stall ran out of it so Pork Bao it was. Medan's Pork Bao was so yummy and Naomi could not stop eating it! She even demanded the last bite of the Bao in the car. I should have bought more than one. I have been craving Indonesian Bakpao for the longest time now. Hard truth - I never like the meat Bao in Malaysia. I find the meat filling for Bao in Malaysia is weird and not too enjoyable. It's either there's pork skin or thick fat in the filling or the producers use ngo hiong powder to cook the meat filling. This doesn't happen in Indonesia so that's why I love Bakpao in my home country. One big pork Bao in this stall in Selat Panjang cost 9k IDR.


One of the local dishes that I was dying to try in Medan was Pangsit Mie Medan. My brother convinced me that I should not worry about finding this noodle dish in town because they are everywhere. The one we had was from a noodle restaurant in Cemara Asri.

Pangsit Mie Medan.

Pangsit Mie Medan was served with tasty minced meat, blanched bean sprouts and mustard plus a bowl of fish ball soup.

Shamelessly posing in front of the Pangsit Mie restaurant.

The difference of Pangsit Mie Medan with Pangsit Mie I know in East Java is that the minced meat in Pangsit Mie in Medan is braised in dark soy sauce while the one in Java is not, hence the minced chicken meat usually is white. Also, Pangsit Mie in Java doesn't come with blanched bean sprouts and fish ball soup - just blanched mustard and meat ball soup.

Mie Kam Pak Cemara Asri
Address: Kompleks Cemara Asri, Jalan Bahagia no. 8A, Medan


Once I asked my brother if Medan also sells the food that we usually eat back home like Pecel (traditional Javanese salad in peanut sauce), Nasi Campur, etc. He said no but there was a place selling Pecel or locally known as Pecal. However, he did alert me that the Pecal style here is different from what we have in Java. The Pecal in Medan is served with fried noodle or beehon instead of steamed white rice.

It was Sunday when we were around the Cemara area. After we ate the Pangsit Mie Medan, my brother drove us to a crowded spot in Cemara, just next to the pond with the storks, which sells lots of street food, Pecal included.

Examining the pecal serving in Medan.

The Pecal that my brother ordered for me just consisted of blanched vegetables in peanut sauce with a fried tempe as I requested. For himself, he ordered fried noodles and lots of deep fried stuff in peanut sauce.

Vegetable Pecal in Medan.

I felt that the peanut sauce of Pecal in Medan was a bit bitter - or maybe I happened to bite a bitter vegetable that time. But one thing for sure, the peanut sauce set my mouth on huge fire after just one bite. This Pecal was crazy fiery. My nose and eyes got incredibly teary while I tried to munch more of this Pecal. My brother thought I was crazy because he felt that the peanut sauce was just mildly spicy. I corrected him that my ability to eat spicy food had toned down a lot since I came to Malaysia. In the end, my brother finished my vegetable Pecal as my husband didn't want to eat it either. 


That Sunday afternoon, after we checked some tourist attraction spots in town - my husband suggested us to find a place for coffee, if possible a cafe with local touch. My brother's girlfriend fulfilled this request and brought us to a popular local coffee shop in town, Macehat Coffee. Macehat Coffee is not located by a big street but when I entered its cramped premise, I was quite amazed. This place was extremely crowded. We had to stand up queueing for a table for four for 30 minutes or so.

Us in Macehat Coffee.

Once we managed to get a table, we placed our orders. My brother and his girlfriend mentioned that usually people order their Avocado Coffee Float and Kopi Luwak in this cafe. Just like what my brother and his girlfriend ordered, my husband also decided to try the Avocado Coffee Float.

 The must -try Avocado Coffee Float.

I am not a coffee drinker so I settled for a hot chocolate instead.

Hot chocolate.

We also ordered some of their Risoles and French Fries for our afternoon snack. My brother said this cafe's Risoles was good and he was right. Macehat Risoles has Mustard filling and not many restaurants or bakeries in Indonesia sell something like this. A portion of 3 Risoles like below cost 22k IDR.

Macehat Mustard Risoles - Gone in 5 minutes.

Here's Naomi hanging out with her Uncle. She loved playing the toys that the cafe provided and later on, she refused to return them. As expected, we had to deal with one major meltdown from this little critter as we left the cafe.

Naomi and her handsome uncle.

Macehat Coffee
Address: Jalan Karo no. 20, Medan
Phone: +62 61 452 9944


On our last day in Medan, we could only try one more local food before we headed to the airport. For our final lunch in this city, my brother let us try Soto Medan.

Our glorious Soto lunch spread.

Soto Medan is quite different from our clear soup Soto in East Java because the soup in Medan is infused with coconut milk while our Soto in East Java is not. In addition, just like in Java, Soto Medan comes in two varieties: Beef and Chicken.

Soto Medan with Beef.

I tried both but felt that the one with Chicken slices was better somehow.

 Soto Medan with Chicken.

Trained to eat Indonesian food as soon as she was legal to eat rice, Naomi cleaned her Soto plate until no single grain of rice left. I guess she loves Soto Medan too. Actually, all of us really enjoyed Soto Medan; otherwise we would not have asked for extra rice, would we?

Remember this restaurant for nice Soto Medan, ok!

RM. Nasi Soto Medan
Address: Jalan Gatot Subroto, Medan


When visiting Medan, it's almost a norm for tourists to bring back the super famous roll cakes from Medan - Bolu Meranti.

Menu in Bolu Meranti shop.

Bolu Meranti shop was so damn crowded with buyers but the service was very fast. Basically what people do when they enter the shop are as follows:
  1. Look at the huge menu board, swiftly browse all the menu, choose the cakes you want to buy and get the receipt.
  2. Pass the receipt to the cashier counter next to the ordering counter. Pay for your cakes and get a number to get the cakes.
  3. Wait for your cakes to be handed to you when your number is called.
  4. Go back to your car.

I bought Mocca Roll Cake with Cheese topping and Bika Ambon to bring back to Malaysia. I think the Roll Cake tasted just like normal roll cake - I don't know why the roll cakes from this particular shop are extremely popular. How come?

Pardon the bad lighting.

The Bika Ambon or Indonesian Honey Comb Cake was very nice but oddly greasy. Too much margarine, eh?

Bika Ambon Meranti.

Bolu Meranti
Address: Jalan Kruing no. 2A Medan

This Bolu Meranti review ends the sharing of my culinary trip in Medan over the weekend. Thanks to my brother and his girlfriend, I think we managed to cover a good part of our what-to-eat-in-Medan list albeit our failure in trying some iconic foods in town such as authentic Nasi Padang, Durian Ucok and many more (mainly because of our time limitation and the fact that my husband and I had sore throat when we were in Medan) - but there is still next time!

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