Surry Hills might be the last place you’d expect to find cheap and homestyle Indonesian food but that's exactly where Medan Ciak has opened. It’s a new favourite with Indonesian students and ex-pats - queues out the door are not uncommon, especially on weekends. There’s a reason for the frisson of excitement. Unlike most Indonesian restaurants across Sydney that focus on Javanese cuisine, here you’ll find the food of Medan, the North Sumatran capital known for its distinct mix of indigenous Batak, Malay and Chinese flavours.
Expect lots of pork - Batak people are predominantly Christian rather than Muslim faith - including regular cameos by Chinese lap cheong sausage. You’ll find it scattered in the nasi goreng fried rice and the cah kwe tiau – fried flat rice noodles with barbecue pork, prawns, fish cake and egg that mirrors Malaysian char kway teow.
Whatever you do, make sure you order the barbecue pork and roast pork rice. It’s a porcine feast of sweet marinated pork, barbecued so the edges are caramelised, and chunks of juicy roast pork topped with a tile of bubbled crackling. It’s not far removed from what you'd find at a Chinese bbq shop, except here you get cucumber slices, a soy sauce egg and plenty of sweet soy drizzled over the top.
Lontong sayur is another house specialty, a spicy coconut milk soup loaded with carrots, beans, boiled egg and green jackfruit. Curried beef and fried chicken pieces bolster the protein content. Lontong compressed rice cakes at the bottom of the bowl are ideal for soaking up all that soupy goodness.
Still can’t decide? The nasi padang combination rice provides a little scoop of almost everything from the bain marie. That means a mound of rice surrounded by beef rendang, fried chicken, vegetable curry, boiled egg with sambal chilli and cooked cassava leaves.
Prices are deliriously cheap for this end of town, with nothing over $14. Even a can of Coke will only set you back two bucks. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the weekend specials – there are new dishes every week.