On the eve of my departure to Medan for another exciting culinary hunt, I casted an eye over Indonesian Novelist-cum-food writer Laksmi Pamuntjak’s review on Kari Bihun Tabona – a Kari Bihun (rice vermicelli curry soup) joint in the capital city of North Sumatra. It says that if time would only allow me to eat just the one meal in Medan, then it has to be at this particular eatery. As a true believer of her views on Indonesian food, I included a stopover at Kari Bihun Tabona into my itinerary.
Established in 1972, Kari Bihun Tabona was initially housed in a modest 50-pax shop. As it grew in popularity, so did its size. It currently occupies three shop lots on Jalan Mangkubumi and even went as far as opening a branch in Jakarta.
One look at the morning crowd says it all about its approval rating amongst the people of Medan. All three dining areas were packed with customers, which led me to head to its most recently acquired wing. One of the staff members there hurriedly took my order and returned with a bowl of hot Kari Bihun Ayam (rice vermicelli curry with chicken) in a flash.
The various spices used in the mixture – including cumin, cinnamon, and coriander seeds – released a mouth-watering aroma from the soup that travelled through the air. As a display of a lightly textured curry that has a complex yet immaculate fragrance, it was simply marvellous. Rice vermicelli tends to taste a bit on the bland side, but this maxim doesn’t apply here. Blending well with the soup, the rice vermicelli emphasises a rich savoury flavour with a hint of spiciness. The slices of chicken meat and boiled potato on top were flavourful enough as to not overpower the zestfulness of the curry. In my opinion, this is undoubtedly the best Kari Bihun in the world.
Before I made my leave, I discovered that besides the chicken variety of the dish, it also offers another type of Kari Bihun: Kari Bihun Sapi (rice vermicelli curry with beef). Apparently, this version is even more celebrated by Kari Bihun Tabona’s loyal punters. With my curiosity well piqued, I scheduled another visit.
Jl. Mangkubumi No. 17,
Medan, North Sumatra
T: 061 452 5540
Open daily from 7am-4pm
Rp.30,000/US$2.30 per person