It was a Wednesday. The bosses allowed me to escape from the hills and gave me a few days off.
I have a flight to catch the following day and with the distance of my hills to the nearest airport, I have to go down a day before.
I was with other colleagues in the car. They are going back to the city too. Lunch time and we decided to have a rest from the 4-hour drive. We stopped by KFC. They know I love KFC (only because there is no McDonald’s in sight).
As they were having their cigarette break before we walked into the fastfood, one colleague asked me if I would like to try one of the specialties that North Sumatra offers. The place is not so hygienic but serves good food, he said.
I am not picky. I can eat anything. I love new experiences. So we forgot about KFC.
We ended up in BPK.
BPK stands for Babi Panggang Karo. Babi means pork. Panggang means grilled. Karo is one of the ethnic groups in North Sumatra.
When I saw the place, I smiled. This is a place where my Dad and I would not cringe to eat in. My Mom, brother and sister, well, that’s another story.
According to Wikipedia, Babi panggang Karo and Babi panggang Toba are two similar dishes made by the Christian Batak Toba and Batak Karo of North Sumatra. Pigs are slaughtered and used in their entirety to make babi panggang – bones for a clear soup, meat (including offal) to be grilled, and blood for a dipping sauce. The three dishes are served with plain rice and a sambal andaliman, made from fresh sichuan peppers.
I am familiar with bones being used for soup and meat being grilled. But blood as the dipping sauce? I almost died (not). I am used to soy sauce and kalamansi or vinegar with crushed garlic.
I was a little bit hesitant to try that blackish sauce but then I remember we have Dinuguan back home which is a thick soupy dish made from the blood of the pig mixed with meat from pig’s face and its innards. And I eat Dinuguan with passion so who am I to be scared of this small bowl of blackish dip with pepper in it? It should be child’s play.
The experience was interesting.
First, they served steaming rice with a bowl of salty clear soup and Camote tops. Only a spoon was given and a bowl of water where you can wash your hands. The spoon is meant to be used only for the soup. The rest of the meal you have to eat by hand.
People love to eat with their hands in Indonesia. That same bowl of water will be used later on to wash away the remnants of food that clung to the hands.
I am not up to it that moment. I asked for a fork.
As the Babi (pork) was being grilled, I asked my colleagues what they use to marinate the meat. Do they dip it in special sauce or do they just put salt and pepper? They said none of the above. No condiment whatsoever is added. The meat is just grilled directly. Say what?
I hope the meat was washed before that. I remember how my parents always talk about meat hanged by the roadside and sold to people. They were saying how much bacteria sticks to the meat from the dust and other elements of the earth.
I have seen a lot of exposed, “unprotected” hanging pig’s head and meat on the way to the BPK resto. Is that where the meat came from? OMG. No Monterey? Yikes.
So the grilled meat arrived. I can still see some pig’s hairs sticking out. Ok.
My lunchmates started digging in and eating the food passionately. I was a bit slow. I asked if they sell cola. Grilled meat is good with cola. They have none. But the owner of the shop was nice and bought me a bottle from the nearest sari-sari store or small store by the road side. Very much like the Philippines. The cola was not cold. I asked for some ice. The owner came back with some irregularly crushed ice. I wonder where she got it. I should not think too much.
The grilled meat with no condiments in it didn’t taste much. And I love tasty food. So I did it. I dipped my meat in the blood sauce.
I think I enjoyed it. The thick soupy blood mixed with the finely shredded hot chilis added extra flavor. Interesting.
The salty soup and the Camote tops completed the meal with my iced cold cola.
I must say it was a great first BPK experience.
But with all that smoke getting into the shop from the griller, the noise of the cars passing by the road and the incomplete cutlery here and there, this place is not for the fussy eater or the weak at heart.
But we only live life once so what the hell.
Experience everything, I always tell myself. It will be worth it.