If you are looking for cold brew coffee and smoothie bowls, you are better off to Bali. You can find the Indonesian evergreens like gado-gado, nasi or mie goreng also on Sumatra. But the island has its very own cuisine. The most famous of which is undoubtly Rendang, Soto, Sambal or Gulai.
Padang restaurants are very common on Sumatra. They display their already cooked dishes in the front window, mostly curries, fish, egg, tempeh or vegetables. Pick out the ones you like. The default way to eat is with your right hand (the left hand is dirty). But you can also ask for a “sendok” (spoon).
Sumatran food is usually very spicy with lots of chilli, ginger, lemon grass, garlic and coriander. Some of the spiciest food in all Indonesia is the food from the city of Padang in the West of Sumatra. Most of the Sumatran people are muslim so there is few pork available. Although in the larger cities such as Medan it is commonly served in Chinese restaurants and the Batak people around Lake Toba (mostly Christians) may treat you also with some excellent pork dishes.
Here are some typical dishes from Sumatra:
Rendang is a kind of curry, but comes with a brown or dark brown sauce. The term Rendang refers to slow cooking, which flourished due to its role in preserving meat in a tropical climate. Rendang is based with coconut milk and rich in spices (ginger, turmeric leaves, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, chillis, shallots and others).
Soto is a traditional Sumatran curry noodle soup with coconut milk and spices.
Sumatra Chicken Curry is a colourful dish with a fresh flavour with the combination of chilli, coriander, ginger and lime.
Sambal is a chilli paste and is used in or added to many different dishes.
Gulai is a dish with a thick curry-like sauce. It is mostly served with poultry, beef, fish and also vegetables. Gulai sauce consists of spices like turmeric, galangal, coriander, ginger, chillis, garlic, shallot, lemongrass and cinnamon, ground into paste and cooked in coconut milk.
Ayam Kacang Bukkitinggi – Peanut Chicken mainly served in and around Bukkitinggi
Ayam goreng (fried chicken) is traditional in all Indonesia, but super tasty in Sumatra.
Rujak – fruits served with a spicy chili sauce.
Gado-gado the Indonesian evegreen. Vegetables topped with a delicious peanut sauce. Boiled egg on the side.
Perkedel kentang – potato cakes
Tempeh goreng – Besides tofu, tempeh is also very famous in Sumatra. Tempeh is a soy product and made by a natural fermentation process that binds soybeans into cake form. It usually comes fried with chillies.
Cap Cay is a dish originated from China. Various vegetables are stir fried in a wok, then garlic, onion, salt, sugar, soy sauce and other sauces are added.
The best thing about all the delicious Sumatran food is that you can always get a fresh coconut or a fresh made juice along with it.