30 foods to try in/around Bukit Lawang

1. Putu bambu are a traditional cake steamed in bamboo tubes. They are made from rice flour, filled with palm sugar, and coated in grated coconut. You can find good putu bambu at Bohorok town, 12km from Bukit Lawang, at the four-way junction near the banks. They cost 500rp each.

2. Martabak manis is a form of thick pancake cooked with a filling of typically peanuts, chocolate, glutinous rice, sweetened sweetcorn. They cost 5,000rp at Bohorok for good thick martabak, or 3 for 10,000rp for lower quality ones sold at Bukit Lawang's Friday market.

3. Martabak telur/martabak daging are a bread similar to roti canai (not related at all to martabak manis), but served stuffed with a filling of seasoned egg (martabak telur) or beef (martabak daging) and accompanied with a side dish of vegetable curry sauce. Available in the Bukit Lawang cave café and sometimes from a travelling stall (rickshaw) which travels between Bohorok and Bukit Lawang.

4. Mie Tiaw Goreng means fried 'mie tiaw', or flat rice noodles. Mie tiaw are fresh (not rehydrated) and therefore not every warung has them in stock. The warung at Bohorok serves good mie tiaw goreng, although it can be found in a number of locations. Noodles are fried in a spicy sambal. Cost: 10,000 rp.

5. Babi Panggang Karo means 'Karo roast pork'. Strips of marinated pork are grilled over charcoal and served with a side dish of pig's blood sambal and rice. There is a daily BPK warung in the market at Gotong Royong, this is open from lunch till evening. Just behind it is another warung serving only on Thursday and Friday. There is another Thursday/Friday BPK place on the other side of the road behind the wedding halls just past the Gotong Royong market on the left side of the road. Price around 20,000 rp with rice. 

6. Lomok-lomok is pork (often this means organs and other parts of the pig not suitable for grilling) cooked in its blood with various spices. You'll find it at the BPK restaurants above. Cost around 20,000 rp with rice

7. Bubur pedas is a porridge dish cooked/sold specifically during the month of Ramadan for breaking the fast after sunset. It will be sold all month from roadside vendors along the Bukit Lawang - Bohorok road. Bubur pedas is considered an ethnically Malay dish, and the version sold in the area is specific to the Langkat regency, and is based on a mix of numerous vegetables including mung beans, rice and ferns, and is seasoned using dried shrimp and coconut milk. Cost around 5,000 rp.

8. Kelapa muda means young coconut. You can ask for your coconut 'bulat' (whole 10,000 IDR), or as 'es' (ice - 5,000 IDR). The coconut water, fresh from the coconut, is mixed with ice, palm or cane sugar syrup (palm sugar preferred) and a tiny calamansi lime. Available daily from lunch time to early afternoon outside the Bukit Lawang market, but the preferred young coconut spot is on the side of the main road in the shaded rubber grove opposite the Muslim graveyard around 7km from Bukit Lawang towards Bohorok, where many teenagers head after school to relax.

9. Lontong is a breakfast dish consisting of rice boiled in banana leaves for many hours, and then cut into cubes, and served with a curry sauce, yellow noodles, and sambal telur (boiled egg in chili sauce). Commonly accompanied also with perkedel. Cost: 7,000 IDR with egg. Where: various local warung from around 7am to 9am, but the preferred spot is the last warung on the left before you reach Bukit Lawang's cave.

10. Perkedel are fried potato cakes made from potato, egg and seasoning. Cost: 1,000 IDR each. Where: as lontong, but also many local places serving nasi campur (mixed rice).

11. Genjer is a flowering plant native to Mexico but naturalised in Asia. It was immortalised in the 1940s Indonesian song 'Genjer-genjer', which uses the food use of the plant as a symbol for poverty. Despite this, it's quite tasty, stir-fried with a spicy sambal. Where: Lookout restaurant, at the top of the village behind Bukit Lawang, evenings. Around 10,000 IDR.

12. Daun ubi tumbuk is a preparation of pounded cassava leaves cooked in coconut milk, and often also with pea aubergines. Where: most places with nasi campur. Around 10,000 IDR as part of a plate with rice and other vegetables. Nasi campur is available in Bukit Lawang in various places, but better nasi campur is available in Bohorok, from around 7am till 1pm.

13. Tauco means fermented yellow soy bean, and it is used to cook vegetables, typically small aubergines. Where: most places with nasi campur. Around 10,000 IDR as part of a plate with rice and other vegetables.

14. Sayur asam means sour vegetables, the sour being derived in this area from the fruit of the torch ginger plant, which is unique to Karo/North Sumatran cookery (other areas use the flower), as well as lemon grass, lime, and other savoury elements. Sayur asam is the most common preparation for fish in nasi campur restaurants, typically ikan mas (carp), It can be recognised by its thin (no coconut milk or fats) yellow/green colour.

15. Semur ayam is chicken cooked in sweet soy sauce. The sauce consists of sweet soy sauce as well as spices such as white cardamom, nutmeg, shallots and garlic. It can be found in nasi campur restaurants, but not as common as some of the other dishes. You may also order in some tourist restaurants.

16. Es campur means 'mixed ice'. Ice is mixed with palm sugar, coconut milk and other forms of sweet to make a drink. Cost is 5,000rp, and can be found from roadside stalls, and always at Gotong Royong's Friday market.

17. Rujak - rujak is mixed fruit with a spicy peanut sauce. Fruits include pineapple, water apple, jicama and starfruit. The rujak man is typically found in Gotong Royong village from around noon till dusk.  You can also purchase fruit, such as slices of pineapple, with or without rujak sauce. Rujak costs 5000 IDR for a portion.

18. Pisang molen - molen is a Dutch word meaning 'mill', and pisang molen are pieces of sweet bananas encased in pastry and deep-fried. Around 4 for 1,000 IDR, pisang molen can be found from just before dusk  for a couple of hours on the side of the main road  out of Bukit Lawang at the junction with the road to the Rindu Alam/Ecolodge hotel.

19. Sate - sate is grilled meat on sticks. The most common meat is chicken (sate ayam) but you may also find beef (called 'sate daging' or meat). Around Bukit Lawang there are two good sate sellers, both selling in the evening from around 6pm until 9pm. The first is located just beyond the bus station at Gotong Royong, 1.5km before Bukit Lawang, while the second (family member of the first) sells at the 4-way junction in Bohorok also in the evenings. A portion is 10,000 IDR for 4 sticks of sate, a portion of lontong (rice cube cooked in pandan leaf), and peanut sauce (spicy chili is optional). Be sure that your sate is cooked to order, as if it has been sitting for a few minutes it doesn't taste as good. If 4 small sticks of sate is not enough for you, you can ask for a portion with more sticks, and pay 2,000rp per extra tick.

20. Jagung rebus is boiled corn, it can be found from local vendors walking around Bukit Lawang.

21. Kue pancong is a cake made from rice flour and cooked fresh in a cart by the vendor. Sometimes found in Bukit Lawang.

22. Tapé - tapé is a fermented food typically made from cassava or glutinous rice. You can find it from strolling vendors who sell it wrapped it in banana leaf. Tapé is slightly alcoholic (but generally considered halal) and has a sweet-sour taste.

23. Pangsit ayam or mie ayam is noodle soup with chicken. It's found in roadside carts and vendors. The basic soup consists of a chicken broth with noodles, a green vegetable such as choi sum, crispy fried onions, spring onions, and then you add your own condiments - sambal (chilli paste), saos sambal (chilli ketchup), kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) - to taste.

24. Bakso - often found in the same carts and vendors that sell pangsit ayam, bakso is the Indonesian word for meatball, and it's typically served in the same chicken broth as mie/pangsit ayam. Bakso are typically ping-pong ball size, but some places also offer giant bakso. Bakso meatballs are smooth, being made from meat blended to a paste with flour.

25. Mie rebus - literally meaning boiled noodles, mie rebus consists of yellow noodles in a spicy shrimp-flavoured curry sauce, garnished with a boiled egg and bean sprouts. Can be found just on the edge of Bukit Lawang near the new mosque.

26. Indomie kuah is ramen noodles in soup (made from the ramen powder, egg, and choi sum or other green vegetable). Indomie is now one of the world's most popular brands, with factories in Indonesia and Nigeria, and 'indomie kuah' is a simple dish that every Indonesian has eaten.

27. Nasi goreng - fried rice. Possibly Indonesia's national dish, the basic nasi goreng consists of rice fried in a chili paste and coloured with sweet soy sauce (nasi goreng is brown in colour as a result, even though it is cooked with white rice), and then some form of egg (either omelette or a fried egg). 'Spesial' means that it is served with a piece of fried chicken. Nasi goreng is available in most restaurants and warung in Indonesia. The shack owned by 'Agus' next to the parking area in Bukit Lawang opens from around 9pm till late (usually later on Saturday nights) serving gamblers, pool players, and late night drinkers.

28. Peyek are peanut crackers consisting of peanuts fried in an aromatic (mildly spicy batter). They are made locally in advance and are sold for 2,000 IDR each.Keep an eye out for peyek in warungs and local shops, in a jar.

29. Mie Aceh - Aceh noodles are fried noodles cooked with small slices of beef or goat covered with a spicy Acehnese sauce. Mie Aceh is sold in many warung around the area, there is specialist Mie Aceh vendor in the housing estate above Bukit Lawang (near the pisang molen vendor). Sold in the evenings. Around 10,000 IDR

30. Rendang - the classic beef rendang is rarely to be found, as beef is too expensive except on special occasions. However you can find chicken rendang in nasi campur places.