Sumatran Batak love their grilled meats. Stalls and shops selling babi panggang (grilled pig - most Batak are Christian) are a common sight on the two-lane road from just outside Medan, west and south through Berestagi, to Lake Toba.
In Indonesia (and Malaysia) the word 'babi' isn't uttered in polite company. The abbreviations BPK (babi panggang Karo, for the Batak Karonese version) and BPT (babi panggang Toba, prepared by Batak Karonese) smooth the way for non-offensive conversation comparing the babi product of this stall or that shop.
A couple of other abbreviations of note: B2 is pig and B1 is that other, other white meat, dog. Batak are fairly large consumers of the latter, judging by the number of shops advertising B1. B1 is almost always served in places peddling tuak, palm liquor.
No, we didn't sample any B1. Without going into the whole dog meat debate, suffice it to say that the fact that three dogs share our home means that the stuff will never pass our lips (that said, it wouldn't have passed our lips before our house was invaded by hounds).
It also means that we'll never adopt a pig. We are certified pork lovers.
Ordering in a BPT/BPK joint is a simple matter of uttering 'B1' or 'B2' (some places serve only one or the other). The meal arrives as a set consisting of a plate of plain steamed rice and one of BBQ meat with, sometimes, sausage (above, find strips of pork at 6 o'clock, a firm pate-like pork liver sausage at 11-12, and another softer, more fatty, and, at this joint at least, relatively tasteless sausage at 3); a plate of well-blanched daun ubi (tapioca leaves), chopped and mixed with lots of ginger and perhaps some garlic;
a bowl of soup that can vary from sublimely porky to bland and dull as dishwater; and a saucer of dipping sauce made with pork's blood that tastes nothing at all like blood but is rich, complex, and slightly sweet (being dished up, below).
A must-try, and the perfect way to cut the richness of the (nicely) fatty pork, is a Batak sambal made with fresh prickly ash (it's never on the table, so one must ask for it), called andaliman in these parts. Andaliman grows wild all over north Sumatra and every market seems to include a handful of vendors selling the stuff by the bunch. Unlike prickly ash eaters in China, where the spice is called huajiao and provides the characteristic ma-la (numbing and hot) flavor in the Sichuanese classic mapo dofu, Batak prefer their andaliman fresh (northern Thais eat prickly ash both fresh and dried.) The berries have a wonderful citric scent and flavor and are lip-tingling and hot as hell. We love them.
BPK/BPT shops each seem to have their own way with andaliman; one of our favorites featured the herb pounded with small green chilies and kaffir lime leaf, with lime on the side for further tartening. That combo of fresh prickly ash and fresh chilies is perhaps the spiciest thing we've ever put in our mouths (and that includes everything we ate during our year in China's Sichuan province, home of some pretty hot stuff) but it was tasty enough to make me oblivious to the pain. My lips were dancing for about 45 minutes after the meal.
The quality of the food served at BPK/BPT shops varies widely. We don't recommend the place we took breakfast at in Berestagi (on the same block as the bus area in front of the main market, third photo from top), with its chilly service and even colder sausage. We do highly recommend a shop (first and second photos) in Sumbul, a speck on the road between Berestagi and Sidikalang that hosts a weekly market on Tuesday (reason enough in itself to hit this town). We were graciously treated to lunch here by locals and, though the place is, um, simple, the pork was fresh off the grill and yum incarnate (just meat, no sausage), moist and smoky, sliced and served on top of the greens so that its fragrant juices dribbled down over the leaves and mixed with the ginger.