Located along Tanjong Katong Road, beside the Esso Petrol Station, Medan Town serves home-style cooking and street fare found in Medan, the fourth largest city in Indonesia. The difference between Medanese food and other Indonesian food is that there is a large Chinese population in Medan and hence, the food is Chinese-influenced. Although the Medanese owner-chefs have no culinary training, they come from a family of restaurateurs and they cook very shiok homely food from their recipes passed down for generations. Not to be missed is the incendiary home-made chilli sauce, found on every table, which adds to the taste of the food, rather than destroys all other flavors with extreme spicy-heat.
Bihun Bebek ($5.80)
Start the meal with a homemade drink, kietna ($2.20). The owner-chefs take 14 days to make this drink. Calamansi rind, water, sugar, dried sour plums and lime juice are boiled and made into a syrup, which is chilled for 14 days for the flavors to blend completely. The result is a sweet and citrusy drink that is appetizing. The Indonesian Liang Teh ($1.50) tastes like an unsweetened grass jelly.
Medanese Chicken Kari ($5.50)
The must-order dish is the Bihun Bebek ($5.80), or duck noodles. The duck is slow-cooked in herbal broth for 5-6 hours and then shredded for the noodles. The rice noodles are, in Huccalily’s words, “AWESOME!” because it is imported from Indonesia. It is very springy and even has a flavor of its own. The dish is topped with fried garlic, parsley, chives, bean sprouts, lettuce and drizzled with soya sauce and pork lard oil. Ah! Pork lard oil. How you make everything more delicious tenfold. The end result is homely and very, very delicious and comforting food.
Soto Udang ($6.60)
If you don’t want noodles, then order rice and side dishes. First, pick a curry to moisten the rice: Medanese Chicken Kari ($5.50) or Soto Udang ($6.60). The curries are in general not spicy and more lemak (coconut-milky). They are made to be watery because if you don’t want rice, you can choose noodles, and watery curry makes it easier to eat with noodles. Between the chicken kari and prawn kari, the chicken was ok while the prawn was a favorite that night. A spicy paste of galangal, ginger, turmeric and chilli is fried till fragrant before prawn stock and coconut milk are added to create the prawn curry. Crushed melinjo (Indonesian cracker that leaves a bitter aftertaste) is added to the prawn curry just before it is served. As a result, the soto udang had a sweet and jackfruit-like taste. We couldn’t get enough of the prawn curry.
Combo Platter ($6.20)
If you don’t want to eat a lot and are eating alone, just curry and rice are sufficient. But if you’re eating in a group, after picking your curry, you can pick your sides. We didn’t care much for the perkedel ($1.50 for 2 pieces, deep fried mashed potato), hepiah ($3.80, 5 pieces, homemade prawn fritters), and chai tau keu ($1.50, 2 pieces, fried raddish cake).
Potato Sambal Balado ($3)
Instead, order the chicken wings ($3.80 for 2) which is marinated with coriander seeds, garlic, lemongrass, galangal and ginger and left overnight for the marinate to permeate completely through the wings and fried in a way that the tender meat falls off the bone; potato sambal balado ($3) which is fried with their special spicy chilli sauce found on every table, and topped with crunchy melinjo and petai (or what we call smelly bean, 臭豆); and the extremely tender rendang sapi ($4.80, beef rendang).
Rendang Sapi ($4.80)
Es Sekoteng ($3.50) and Es Campur Medan ($3.50, behind)
For desserts, it seems like es sekoteng was more popular than es campur Medan that night. Es sekoteng is similar to ice kacang with extra ingredients such as biji selasi (basil seeds), barley, boiled orange peel: a refreshing and light dessert to end a meal. Es campur Medan is similar to Singapore’s chendol, except that it has fermented tapioca, an Indonesian delicacy that tastes alcoholic. The coconut milk and palm sugar pad the full blow of the fermented tapioca, making this dessert very complex and interesting for me.
Klepon ($1.80) and Ongol-Ongol ($1.50, behind)
Klepon is Singapore’s ondeh-ondeh and ongol-ongol is similar to gula melaka rolled in shredded coconut. Like the strands of chendol used in es campur Medan, the kuehs are handmade. I adored the kuehs that night: they were very soft and smooth. Easy to eat 10 or 20 at a go.
If Medan Town were on Sesame Street, then the word of the day is “gusto.” As in, we attacked the food with gusto. Huccalily summed up the food very succinctly in two words: “SUPER SHIOK,” so shiok that Huccalily returned to the restaurant with her friends after the tasting.
253 Tanjong Katong Rd
T: 6348 9227
Rating: 3.663/5 stars
Ps: Thanks Shauna and Harianto for inviting and hosting us.