It seems that every major city in Indonesia tends to call itself – or be crowned some food expert – a “culinary utopia”. In the case of Medan, however, the title rings true. The capital city of North Sumatra has at its disposal a wide array of rare dishes that you just wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. One example is Ta Kua He Ci, which is an afternoon snack made from a combination of prawn, crab, and tofu fritters served with bean sprouts and water spinach. Only a handful of sellers actually offer this unique treat, with one of the most notable being He Ci Sunggal.
Since it first opened its doors 30 years ago, He Ci Sunggal has won the hearts of many seafood fritter fans and its level of popularity can be witnessed by the number of Medan natives who drive all the way to Sunggal – a small district in Deli Serdang – from the city centre just to sample its signature delicacy.
And so I found myself at the shop, which is tucked inside a small alley, during lunch hour. Of course, He Ci Sunggal – founded by one Madame Ng – was teeming with customers at the time. A staff member came up to me and I immediately ordered a portion of its Ta Kua He Ci. It seems that it doesn’t require too long to be prepared as it was delivered to me in a flash. I took a chunk of the prawn fritter and dunked into a thick and sticky red sauce. As soon as I laid it on my palate, a lovely sweet-and-sour tang fulminated across my taste buds. For my second bite, I added some chopped raw chillies into the mix. As expected, a refreshing spiciness accompanied its smashing flavour. It just goes to show that trying out an uncommon dish can make for a pleasant surprise.
Jl. Bakung No. 1, Sunggal,
Medan, North Sumatra
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am-6pm
Rp.20,000/US$1.50 per person