Best Ever Eats: A Tasty New Normal Guide to Batak Eats in Lake Toba

Best Ever Eats: A Tasty New Normal Guide to Batak Eats in Lake Toba

Taste the unique flavors of Batak Toba cuisine around Lake Toba under new normal travel

The Batak tribe in Indonesia is widely known for its rich culture and traditions. Up to today, you can always tell when someone is Batak as they carry their family beliefs with pride. With 6 different clans around North Sumatra, Lake Toba and Samosir Island are home to the Batak Toba clan whose cuisine is characteristically known for their andaliman flavors. 

The Sichuan pepper-like andaliman pepper is a plant that is endemic to Lake Toba and its surroundings. As a key ingredient in many dishes in traditional Batak Toba cuisine, the spicy kick is what keeps the locals warm. 

Find comfort in the flavorful Batak cuisine around Lake Toba as you enjoy the endless panoramic views and fresh cooling breeze all around. With Indonesia seeing better days in the pandemic, Lake Toba is a top Best Ever Eats destination for a much needed recharge. Here’s a short guide on what to eat for a whole day in Lake Toba.

Breakfast

Mie Gomak at Warung Kurnia Pasar Tomok

  • Travel time from Tomok Cultural Village: 4 minutes on foot

Mie Gomak, a breakfast for champions with a little andaliman pepper kick on the side. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Start your day right with a Batak-style spaghetti, or Mie Gomak. The name of the noodles derive from gomak, which means grab or handle in Batak as back in the days, they used to prepare the noodles by hand. Enjoy it either as a soupy coconut milk-based style, or the fried noodle kind. 

Cooked with a handful of spices like ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal, an added dash of andaliman pepper is what gives Mie Gomak its edgy character. This simple, thick noodle dish has become the breakfast staple and the place to enjoy its flavors is at Kurnia in  Pasar Tomok.

Simple and humble gems with authentic taste is what you can find in Pasar Tomok. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Life in Samosir Island takes place mostly in Pasar Tomok, as it is the first stop most people make upon arriving at the crater island. At this local market, you will find souvenir shops in the multitudes and food stalls like these come to the rescue when you need to rest those tired feet. There’s ample choices for Mie Gomak around the area but at Warung Kurnia, you can also try other local delicacies like the peanut sauce noodle soup, Mie Pecal.

Warung Kurnia is a small stall but its flavors are larger than life. The woman who runs it will welcome you with open arms, as long as you abide by the safety and health protocols of wearing a mask and washing your hands at her makeshift hand washing station. 

Lunch

Ikan Na Tinombur at RM Tesalonika Tomok

  • Travel time from Tomok Cultural Village: 4 minutes on foot

Squeeze the lime and dip your Ikan Na Tinombur into the andaliman sambal and your experience is complete. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Soaked with a rich, flavorful Na Tinombur spice mix, you can always smell this classic Batak Toba fish dish as it grills from miles away. Get a refreshing whiff of torch ginger bud, andaliman peppers, and candlenut and let your appetite satiate for this lunch destination. 

Rumor has it that the dish was the go-to packed lunch for fishermen, as all they had to do was slather a generous amount of Na Tinombur spice mix to their daily catch and grill it right on the spot. It’s no fisherman’s boat at RM Tesalonika Tomok but you can definitely taste the freshness of the fish at every bite.

At RM Tesalonika Tomok, Ikan Na Tinombur does no wrong. With just Rp50,000, you can pick between nila or mujair tilapia fish, the grilled catch comes paired with rice, andaliman sambal and a vegetable soup to cleanse your palate. For the adventurous, you can also give their pig blood saksang stew a try, or their other soupy carp fish dish, Ikan Mas Arsik. 

Spray on your soap and wash your hands at the cleverly improvised hand washing station of RM Tesalonika Tomok. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

When you visit RM Tesalonika Tomok, don’t forget to wear your mask throughout your dining experience and wash your hands at their hand washing station. Payment is done solely by cash, so keep your hand sanitizer ready after your transaction for a safe dining experience. 

Freshwater Lobster at Widya Restaurant

  • Travel time from Tomok Cultural Village: 8 minutes by car

A mouth watering stack of freshwater lobster cooked in oyster sauce is just what you need to fulfill your Toba culinary journey. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Did you know that Lake Toba is not just home to a variety of yummy fishes, but also lobsters? This small crawfish-like freshwater lobster has been cultivated in this part of Indonesia and grew to be a popular ‘seafood’ dish due to its sweet taste and juicy meat. 

Widya Restaurant has garnered a lot of local fans as the place has become the antidote for anyone who craves a good seafood feast. Lobsters are their specialty here and cooking it in oyster sauce has become the winning item on their menu. Other ways to enjoy the lobster include having it cooked in butter or sweet and sour sauce but if you’re all about the meat, order the barbecued lobster to savor every fresh bite and dip it into the ever essential Batak Toba relish, sambal andaliman.

Only live freshwater lobsters are served here at Widya Restaurant and you can even pick them if you like. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Other than small lobsters, Widya Restaurant also offers a range of fish options that you can try but having it freshly grilled is what loyal customers would recommend. As the family-run restaurant has become the place to gather for locals, expect large portions and people coming in with their loved ones during lunch and dinner hours. 

Located just a stone’s throw away from Lake Toba, open-air dining is the concept at Widya Restaurant. It’s a great place to stop by and recharge during your stroll around Tuk Tuk with the fresh winds of the lake. Just remember to keep your masks on when you come in and wash your hands before you dig in as health and safety protocols still apply at Widya Restaurant.

Dinner

Ikan Arsik and Daun Ubi Tumbuk at Sekapur Sirih Restaurant

  • Travel time from Tomok Cultural Village: 10 minutes by car

No Ikan Arsik is complete without its Daun Ubi Tumbuk companion for a hearty dinner. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

If a marriage of flavors tickles your fancy, Ikan Arsik and Daun Ubi Tumbuk is the Batak dinner for you. These two dishes go hand in hand together and are commonly found in the streets of Lake Toba. Ikan Arsik is a soupy carp fish dish with an umami burst of flavors, cooked with its champion ingredients, torch ginger flower, bud and fruit, and not forgetting andaliman peppers. 

Although Ikan Arsik is a showstopper in any dining table, let’s not forget its partner in crime: Daun Ubi Tumbuk. A must-have for any Batak meal, the pounded cassava leaf dish is cooked with a savory coconut-milk broth, enriched with spices like honje, lemongrass, dried anchovies and galangal. 

You know you’re in for a special treat when you see the two dishes served, especially as Ikan Arsik is what you would typically find served during Christmas or weddings. However you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy this at Sekapur Sirih Restaurant.

Keep everyone safe by opting to pay for your meals with a card instead at Sekapur Sirih Restaurant. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Anyone who stumbles upon this charming lakeview restaurant will concur that it is a gem worth recommending to Lake Toba visitors. Decked with traditional tribal ornaments and their own replica of a Batak Toba bolon house, you can also try their Na Niura, the authentic sashimi-like Batak Toba carp fish dish.

Everyone at Sekepur Sirih is required to wear a mask, but expect friendly faces behind them from the staff. Wash your hands at their designated washing stations and prepare your cards for payment as it is the preferred method at this cozy eatery. 

Snacks

Toba Coffee at Lago’s Cafe

  • Travel time from Tomok Cultural Village: 4 hours by car

You can never go wrong with a great cup of coffee and fritters when you’re snacking in Lake Toba. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

The highlands of Lake Toba is home to breathtaking views and what goes better with that than a fine cup of freshly brewed coffee? The soils of Sumatra are known for some of the world’s best coffee beans and those in Lake Toba are no different. 

Lago’s Cafe is a quaint coffee joint that welcomes you with the roasted aroma of arabica coffee. Here, you can find a range of beans from surrounding regions of Lake Toba such as Karo, Simalungun, Tapanuli Utara, Lumban Julu Tobasa, and Sigulok Sijamapolang Humbahas – some of which are beans used by Starbucks! Get a whiff of your cup of joe and pick between manual brews like V60, French press, Vietnam drip and chemex.

Unwinding at Lago’s while you revel in the glorious views of Lake Toba is an ideal way to pass the time for locals but no evening snack time is complete without the ultimate Indonesian guilty pleasure, deep fried fritters. Tahu Amoy is Lago’s take on savory fried tofu cubes where having another one would never feel enough, while their Bakwan Jagung is a corny, fried crispy delight.

We won’t blame you if you end up lounging here for the whole afternoon. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

As health and safety is top priority for Lago’s Cafe, no mask no entry is a rule applied and you can expect to have your temperature taken upon entry. With a view of the lake at the open air area, seatings are well distanced for you to enjoy the fresh breeze. Payments can also be done electronically with a card, but remember to wash your hands after the transaction.

Health & safety protocols to note

Throughout Indonesia, health and safety protocols are strictly enforced. Temperature checks upon entry is the norm across all establishments, including tourist destinations. Don’t forget to bring your vaccine certificates with you or have it ready from the PeduliLindungi app. Masks in public spaces are required all over the country, so double up and always bring extras in your bag.

While some destinations still allow cash, major establishments prefer cashless and card payments so have your e-wallets topped up before you start your itinerary. However, hand washing stations are required to be installed at every establishment, making it easy for you to keep clean after every cash transaction.

As of current, only international travelers on business visas are allowed to enter Indonesia while certain international travelers are allowed to enter Bali. However, domestic travel is open for vaccinated tourists across the archipelago, with a requirement of vaccine certificates and a negative PCR test result for travels by land, water, or air.

Kickstart your trip to wonderful Indonesia right now

This guide is produced in association with Indonesia Travel. 

  • All photography by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia
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