Best Eats: Lake Toba Celebrity Foodie Recommendations

Best Eats: Lake Toba Celebrity Foodie Recommendations

Discover fresh flavors and exquisite eats at Lake Toba, the noble home of the Batak tribe

The largest volcanic lake in the world, Lake Toba is home to one of Indonesia’s earliest ethnic tribes – the Bataks. Formed by an explosion of a supervolcano 75,000 years ago, the crater island of Samosir is considered sacred for them.

It’s also a sacred land for andaliman peppers and the only place in the world where you can find this Sichuan pepper-like spice. It’s a fundamental ingredient for Batak cuisine, making every dish filled with a tingly edge.

Lake Toba is a 2-hour flight away from Jakarta via North Sumatra’s Silangit International Airport, with a 3-hour drive to Samosir Island. Once you get there, get a dose of Lake Toba’s Best Ever Eats with this curated list of recommendations by AFN’s favorite foodies. 

Yuda Bustara, Chef & Culinary Diplomat

Recommendation: Naniura

Best served cold, Naniura does not fall short on flavors that complement the freshness of the fish.

Chewy, spicy, and citrusy, Naniura is the traditional Batak take of ceviche. This uncooked fish dish is historically reserved for royalty, with Ihan Batak or Tor fish being used. These days however, it is rare to find Ihan so fresh carp fish is used as a substitute and is typically prepared for special occasions like weddings. Unique and quintessentially Batak, you can now also find this dish in many traditional restaurants around Samosir Island.

Nani Ura takes patience and dedication to make, which is why it’s best to reserve a place at the restaurant of your choice and preorder a day ahead to enjoy this dish. Curing and marinating the fish is essential in the preparation of Nani Ura. First, the fresh fish is soaked in a generous sprinkle of asam jungga, a special type of kaffir lime. 

Local bawang Batak chives, torch ginger and andaliman are essential ingredients in Naniura and also Batak cuisine.

As the juices slowly sink into the fish, two spice mixes are made for its delicious dose of flavor. From a medley of herbs like turmeric, ginger, candlenut and coriander seeds, to an aromatic of shallots, torch ginger, garlic, red chilies, lemongrass, local chives or bawang Batak and of course, andaliman peppers.

The eclectic spice mixes are turned into a fiber-free, silky paste and then massaged to the cured fish and left in the chiller for 5-6 hours to let the flavors infuse, and voila! The dish is served cold and blanketed with a refined texture of spices, filled with delicate herb hints and a mouthwatering aroma. 

William Wongso, Culinary Expert

Recommendation: Mie Gomak

Mie Gomak, Lake Toba’s favorite breakfast dish that packs a punch – without denting a hole in your wallet.

Dubbed as Lake Toba’s best noodle dish, Mie Gomak is made with springy, al dente noodles poured over a thick, savory coconut milk soup and topped with a hard boiled egg. With fresh, citrusy tones and spicy sensations, it’s a breakfast delight that will wake up your senses. A ubiquitous dish of Lake Toba, you can easily find Mie Gomak in the lapos or warungs around the area. 

Mie Gomak uses a special kind of straw noodles called mie lidi. It’s thicker than the average noodle and inspired by local straw brooms commonly found in many Batak homes. On the other hand, gomak in Batak language means ‘to take by hand’, derived from how it was traditionally made in its early days.

The basic ingredients needed to make a wholesome bowl of Mie Gomak.

The nourishing coconut soup is made from a paste of herbs and spices like shallots, red chili, garlic, torch ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and andaliman. Striking a perfect balance between the spicy andaliman peppers and the richness of the coconut milk, chicken stock and spice paste is an art form. Too little and there is no tingle, but too much can leave your mouths numb. 

The divine taste of Mie Gomak is the epitome of comfort food for many locals. Some have even created a modernized, fried version of it, where the coconut milk is reduced and sizzled for a stir-fry golden goodness. 

Health & safety protocols to note

When you’re traveling around Indonesia, don’t forget that health and safety protocols are still strictly enforced. Major tourist destinations will have temperature checks and won’t let you enter without your masks. Vaccine certificates are also required upon entry across all establishments, so have it ready from your PeduliLindungi app. 

Certain international travelers are allowed to enter Indonesia with strict regulations, so be sure to keep checking before you book your tickets and start packing. Domestic travel across the archipelago is open for vaccinated travelers, but remember to remain safe and be responsible for yourself and others. 

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