Top 15’s Traditional Karo & Batak Cuisine (Medan-Indonesia)

In previously, I had written many article about Indonesian foods. However, this time I will highlight specially foods from my ethnic and home town, North Sumatra, Medan. Located in Sumatra Islands, North Sumatra is one of the province in Indonesia. Medan is the provincial capital and one of the five biggest city in Indonesia. Medan is famous for their foods, ethnic and culture. The city and province also offer many tourist attraction and one of that is for food lover to have food traveling or food hunting. So, when you visit Medan or North Sumatra try also their foods. It had been 14 years i traveled but still Batak and Medan’s food are my favorite. I am always craving and miss about it and I believe it also will be your favorite city.

If we talking about Medan, maybe one things is very known or identical with the city are Batak People. Batak tribe inhabit and originally comes from west coast and east coast North Sumatra. Batak tribe are consists of Batak Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing. Each Batak tribe have their own culture, languages, tradition and traditional foods. In North Sumatra, beside Batak there are other ethnic such as Melayu, Indian, Chinese, java and etc. Thus, multicultural ethnic, tradition,religion have also impact to the variety of foods in Medan. The foods in Medan is very complex from the Indonesian foods, Batak, Chinese, Indian, Padang or Melayu and etc. The food can be classified as halal foods as well as non-halal. As for the tradition Batak foods, I would said more than 70% are non-halal as it using pork in their main ingredients. Thus maybe because the foods originally created or make for the ceremonial or the tradition festive. Here’s I will highlight Top 15’s Traditional Karo and Batak foodies include their ingredients :

1. Babi Panggang Karo (BPK)

Babi Panggang Karo also known as “BPK” is identical as the popular batak karo foods from Medan. Basically BPK is a barbecue pork add with tradition spices from karo lands and usually served with pounded cassava leaves (Indonesia: daun ubi tumbuk), pork soup and blood chili sauce. It is one of my favorite food all of the time. What is make BPK different from the other barbecue pork are the spices they used, how the grilled it, the smell and specially the sauce which made from the pork blood itself mix with other spices such as chili, white onion, shallot, andaliman (similar to sichuan pepper), lemongrass, and etc. You can found BPK in some Batak restaurant and Lapo in Medan/ North Sumatra and other city in Indonesia.

2. Saksang

Saksang is one of popular batak cuisine from Batak tribe. Mostly it served in batak ceremony or event and also as popular/ essential dish in Batak marriage celebrations. However, saksang also sell in many lapo and batak restaurant in north sumatra as well as other province like Jakarta, Bali etc. Saksang is made from minced pork or sometime dog meat. This meat then stewed with it is blood add with coconut milk and spices like coriander,shallot,garlic,andaliman (similar to Sichuan pepper), kaffir lime,chili pepper,lemongrass,ginger,turmeric,bay leaves and etc. The taste is spicy and savory. It was usually served with other Batak cuisine like arsik (goldfish dishes) and daun ubi tumbuk (pounded cassava leaves).

3. Ikan Mas Arsik

Ikan Mas Arsik or english gold fish arsik is popular Medan and Batak cuisine. It is an Indonesian spicy dish made of ikan mas (gold fish) as the main ingredients, add with andaliman (similar to shicuan pepper), shallots, garlic, ginger,torch ginger fruit (asam cikala), turmeric root, galangal, lime, chili and long beens. The process of cooking the dishes took long time to 3 – 4 hours to get the best texture and flavor. It is my favorite Medan foodies which usually cooked by my Grandma as she made the perfect taste and texture, nice, bit spicy, soft yet tasty ikan mas add with soft crispy long beans. But, of course you also can found this dishes in many Batak or Medan restaurant and lapo. Ikan mas arsik also often served or as essential dishes in many batak a customary ceremony, events and weeding ceremony. One to remember when eating this dish, be careful with the small fish bone inside, there’s a lot. But believe me all is worth for the taste. So if you visit Medan don’t forget to try this dishes. It is halal food and usually served with with rice and other Medan or batak cuisine like spicy fried anchovy.


4. Manuk Cepra (Ayam Cepra)

Manuk Cepra or in english chicken cepra is popular and specialty chicken dishes from Karo tribe. Chicken cepra is almost same like curry or gule (typical indonesian food). Meanwhile, the process and ingredient are almost same like making chicken soup or corn soup. Chicken cepra are made of  pieces of free range chicken, straw mushroom, add with corn flour, coconut milk and spices; torch ginger fruit (asam cikala), lime leaves, lemongrass, bunga kecombrang (english:torch ginger flower/etligera elatior), chili, red tomato, leek, shallot, garlic, tumeric,ginger, candlenut, white pepper and etc. The process of cooking Chicken cepra is take times until the chicken tender/soft, all the spices mix well together and get the thick texture. It’s mostly cooked in home and also served in the ceremonial, family meeting (arisan), tradition karo festive. However, it was also available in karo restaurant or lapo in North Sumatra

5. Daun Ubi Tumbuk

Other popular and specialty cuisine from medan and batak is Daun Ubi Tumbuk or in English pounded cassava leaves. This vegetable dishes usually served to other batak main dishes such as BPK, saksang, fried spicy medan anchovy and etc. Daun Ubu Tumbuk is made of Cassava leaves which are pounded add with coconut milk and spices such as chili, shallots, kincong (rajang), ginger, lemongrass, garlic, candlenut, rimbang/ tekokak, tumeric, tomat etc. Daun Ubi tumbuk looks simple vegetable but yet it have nice flavor and taste. Daun Ubu Tumbuk are available in many Lapo (traditional batak warung) and batak restaurant.

6. Gule Kuta Kuta (Gule Ayam masak Karo)

Gule Kuta kuta also known as gulai gundur is typical chicken dishes from karo ethnic in Medan. Gule Kuta Kuta  is like chicken curry but use difference ingredients than normal curry (indonesia known as gulai). It was made of free range chicken,coconut milk, lemongrass, leek, torch ginger fruit (asam cekala), galangal, tomato, bird eye chili, turmeric, garlic, shallot, candlenuts and potatoes or sometime use labu gundur (squash) . In Medan or North Sumatra same like chicken cipera, gule Kuta Kuta often serves in many traditional Karo festive and ceremonial.   The dishes usually cooked at home but also available in some traditional Karo or Batak restaurant. It is Halal food and usually served with white rice.

7. Manuk Napinadar (Ayam Masak Darah)

Manuk Napinadar or english chicken napinadar is a typical batak cuisine which means chicken cooked with it’s blood. It is look bit primitive but then contrary, this dishes have nice taste and flavor, bit spicy and not fishy. Manuk Napinadar use  ingredients such as free range chicken which grilled add with the sauces made of the chicken blood itself which had been put spices such as lime juices, jeruk salt, andaliman (like sichuan paper), garlic, lemongrass, leek, turmeric, ginger,shallot, candlenuts, chili etc. The chicken usually cut by own itself so that can get the fresh chicken blood.  Manuk Napinadar mostly is made in home by Batak people but it is also available in lapo, Batak or Karo restaurants.

8. Daun Ubi &  jantung pisang

Daun ubi and jantung pisang or in english known as cassava leaves and banana hearts is popular Bataknese vegetable dishes. It is often add as side dishes for other foods. Same like daun Ubi tumbuk (pounded cassava leaves) this simple dishes are made from cassava leaf and banana hearts, blanch and boiled then cut into small slices, mix and cooked well with grated coconut, ginger, galangal, shallot, garlic, chili, lemon grass, torch ginger bud etc. It has nice flavor, taste and texture. The vegetable dishes are available in many Lapo or Batak or karo restaurant in Medan.

9. Lomok-Lomok

Lomok – lomok is special dishes from Karo ethnic which usually served in many ceremony or festive events of Karo ethnic. Lomok-lomok maybe looks like saksang but it different. It is made of pork as well as pork ribs or sometime use beef meat. If it use beef meet than sauce use coconut granted and if use pork than it add with the pork bloods add with other spices such as tumeric, candlenuts, shallot, garlic,  chili, andaliman (like shicuan papper), coconut milk, asam patikala (torch ginger fruit), lemon grass, orange leaves etc. It was served hot and usually eat with white rice.


10. Na Tinombur

Na Tinombur is typical fish dishes from Tapanuli, Batak ethic. It is made of catfish, gold fish or mujahir fish which grilled and served with chili sauce on the top which made of  peanut which had been roasted and pounded, turmeric, andaliman (like sichuan paper), chili, ginger, shallot, garlic, tomato, lime juice, ebi or terasi.  It have spicy sour taste as result of andaliman. It is halal food and often found in many lapo or restaurant in area Danau Toba (Lake samosir) and also Medan.


11. Mie Gomak (Spaghetti khas Batak toba)

Mie Gomak is noodles dishes from Batak ethnic.It was look like “sphagetti” and also popular known as batak spagetti. There are two style in cooking mie gomak, the dry (fried) and the soup one. Either both cooking style, it is use main ingredient mie lidi (like hokkien noodles). Then this noodles add with other ingredients such as egg, shallot, garlic, chili, ginger, turmeric, andaliman (like sichuan papper) and etc. The soup style of Mie gomak usually add with coconut milk, squash, mustard greens and etc.


Naniura is one of Batak specialty dishes which is made from goldfish, Nila fish (tilapia), or mujahir fish . It is different from other Batak dishes, as Naniura is not cooked. The process is the fresh fish cleaned, cutting into 2 then each side spread with asam patikala (ginger torch fruit), andaliman (like sichuan paper), chili, ginger, shallot, garlic, tomato, lime juice etc. The sauces is almost same like Na tinombur. It maybe bit similar like sushi however the taste are different Naniura have flavor and sour taste because use many sour ingredients for the natural cooking processing.

13.Tango – Tanggo

Tanggo – Tanggo is speciality dishes from Batak tribe. It is one of popular dishes with Saksang and BPK and often available in many Lapo or Batak restaurants . Tango – Tango are made from pork specially the pork fat as the main ingredients add with other spices. It is usually serve with white rice and other Batak dishes.



14. Trites

If I suggest other people to try other Batak  foods, well not for this one. Even for myself i am only eat this 2 times, first because i don’t know what it made of and the other because there are no other foods. Well,maybe you wander what is trites?  Trites is one of unique Karo dishes usually served in ceremonial or traditional Karo festive. Trites are made of food cows (grass) which still in colon and had been smoothness by cows. Then, when cows cut, this food then take from their intestine. This main ingredients then add and cooked with other spices and vegetable. It is brown color soup which they said good as medicine for stomach ache.

15. Cimpa




Cimpa is traditional snack or cake from Karo tribe. There are three type of cimpa, the original or the popular is Cimpa Unung which made of white or red glutinous rice filled with coconut shred and brown sugar and wrapped with banana leaves. It then steam for about 20 or 30 minutes. Others are cimpa Jagung (Corn Cimpa) or also known as Labar. These cimpa like the name are made from corn and coconut shred, wrapped with Banana leaves. Lastly, cimpa tuang which are made of glutinous rice, sago, egg, coconut, brown sugar etc. The cooking process of Cimpa tuang is bit differents as it is fried meanwhile the other two cimpa are steam. As for the taste all cimpa is nice although personally i prefer cimpa unung. Cimpa is one of the cake which never absent in any ceremonial or tradition Karo festive. Nowadays, cimpa is difficult to find and mostly are made in home by Karo people.

Tips:  There are still many Traditional batak dishes such as kue ombus ombus (cake) / Kue lapet and of course don’t forget the traditional beverage from medan such as Badak, Saparila and of lastly the traditional alcohol of batak people known as “Tuak”.

This is the end of my writing about traditional batak and Karo foods. Enjoy and hope you can try it if visit medan or North Sumatra.

For more article about food, cooking and traveling please check my other blog ;

Thank you ^-^.

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