Whenever I travel for work or leisure, I always make a point to bring back some local food as souvenirs. The reasoning behind this is that I want my loved ones to sample a bit of my experience. However, this ritual of mine faced a bit of a challenge during my last trip to the province of North Sumatra, where I ended up getting spoilt for choice with the wide variety of local snacks on offer. In the midst of my confusion, I managed to narrow them all down to three treats that I think are worth lugging back home for, and here they are.
If you have read my article about Roti Ganda, then you will know that the bakery’s roti tawar (plain white bread) is a must-buy souvenir for tourists visiting Pematang Siantar. Stuffing roti tawar into your luggage isn’t really a good idea, though, since it can get damaged easily. As the wise traveller that I am, I chose to bring home its home-made cream and meises (chocolate sprinkles) instead as they are packed in small jars. Less the hassle and longer lasting – just perfect.
Once you step foot inside Kuala Namu International Airport’s departure lounge, you are bound to spot more than a handful of travellers carrying yellow boxes with “Meranti” written on top. The brainchild of a housewife named Ai Ling, the Swiss roll has become such an iconic treat in Medan. Available with various fillings including cream cheese, strawberry and pineapple, it can last up to a week if you keep it in a refrigerator.
Another idiosyncratic cake from Medan, Bika Ambon is made from tapioca, flour, yeast, and coconut milk. Possessing a unique spongy texture that is guaranteed to make your sweet tooth go crazy, you can find plenty of shops selling it on Jalan Majapahit. However, amongst the crowd, Bika Ambon Zulaikha and Bika Ambon Ati are the top two choices. Like Bolu Meranti, Bika Ambon can last up to a week.