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What is the most unforgettable thing about Medan City? Beyond the negative and odd, the answer that will come out of many people's mouths is: the food. Columnist and food connoisseur, Bondan Winarno, has dubbed Medan a culinary paradise.

Of course Medan food, whether served at street vendors, coffee shops, or restaurants, it is divided into 2 types: Halal and non-halal. In general, restaurants or outlets in shopping centers as well as luxury restaurants and cafes outside the plaza sell halal food (even though they do not have halal legality from the MUI (Indonesian Ulema Council), even though the owners are Medan Chinese. Serving food that is not halal is usually sold in coffee shops and certain places. But whether it's halal or not, the results of Medan Chinese cuisine, whether it's Chinese food, seafood or other types of cuisine, are recognized as having a special taste.

Medan Chinese is known as a community that likes to eat. Many Medan Chinese families have a penchant for eating out. They really enjoy food and can say they eat "anything". Even in Medan the words "how are you" to greet friends are often said with the phrase “ciak liau boei”, which means "have you eaten".

No wonder the culinary business thrives in this city. Medan Chinese who have migrated to other areas such as Jakarta, always miss certain Medan foods. They will vent their desires when visiting Medan, or even ask their relatives or friends in Medan to bring it especially for them.

What's interesting is that when it comes to food, the Chinese in Medan have a lot in common with the Chinese community in Penang, Malaysia. Penang, just like Medan, is also known as the "paradise" of Chinese food. Everywhere in the city, where the majority are ethnic Chinese, you can find food courts or food sales centers. One of the most famous and visited by Medan residents is Gurney Drive and in front of the Sunway Hotel.

If in Penang one of the signature dishes is laksa--it is said that it was created by the Penang Chinese "nyonya"-then in Medan there are also laksa vendors. In Medan, laksa is found in several locations, such as on Jalan Yoserizal, Jalan Sumatra and Jalan Waringin.

Also very popular in both Penang and Medan is cha kwetiau aka fried kwetiau. If in Penang there is Lorong Selamat cha kwetiau (in Penang it is called char kuey teow) which is very famous and crowded with residents of Medan, then in this city there is cha kwetiau Ateng on Jalan Sumatra and Jalan Letjen S Parman. There are dozens of other famous cha kwetiau places scattered in various areas in Medan, both those selling in the morning and those only open at night.

In Medan, ethnic Chinese food courts are located in several locations. The most famous are Jalan Semarang and Jalan Selat Panjang. There is also an "Angelwalk" at the Jalan Letjen S Parman roundabout. On this street there are also various Chinese-owned restaurants which are always busy at night. Especially for seafood restaurants owned by ethnic Chinese, the Cemara Asri housing complex is the center. Almost every night thousands of people gather in the residential area to enjoy culinary delights. It's no wonder that restaurants in various forms and types of dishes keep popping up in this area.

Interestingly, the Medan Chinese do not only operate Chinese food or seafood restaurants, but also Minang or Malay restaurants. Several "Indonesian cuisine" restaurants such as Miramar, Koto Gadang, Bintang and Sop Ikan Batam (Batam Fish Soup) are also owned by ethnic Chinese. Likewise with typical Javanese/ Sundanese restaurants which are full house every day such as Lembur Kuring, Ayam Kalasan and Koki Sunda.

In Medan City, the ethnic Chinese also dominate the patisserie business, which is a specialty of this region. The most famous snack and used as a kind of "mandatory souvenir" for residents of other regions visiting Medan, Bolu Meranti, the owner is also an ethnic Chinese. Likewise with Bika Ambon cake which has decades of history in this city. The pioneers and vendors of this type of cake are ethnic Chinese, although in recent years the Zulaikha brand has emerged which in a short time has managed to capture market share, especially from Muslims.

Photo by Halim Kosasi on Unsplash


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