I was on one of my walks through Tuk-Tuk, the town on the peninsula of the island in the middle of North Sumatra’s majestic Lake Toba, when I decided to stop for some lunch.
There are so many cafes in the little town and during quiet season most of them are empty. Nearly every house has a cafe at the front and guestrooms at the back. I wandered and wandered until I found a little place called Alyssa Cafe, which only had five solid wood tables and was manned by a woman feeding her baby. I decided to stop there and take a seat.
While we waited for the little boy to finish getting his rice porridge from mum, his older sister, only about 6 or 7, bought me over a menu and a cold bottle of water from the fridge. I asked her mum what she recommended and she said the curry. So I chose pork curry.
By then, the little boy, who was in a walker and was less than a year old, had finished eating, and as his mum cleaned his face, I noticed he had a raw gash on his face right across his mouth that made him cry when it was cleaned. I asked his mother what had happened. She said that she was making breakfast for some customers that morning and left the boy next door with his dad, who carves traditional Batak wood sculptures to sell to tourists. While dad was working, the little boy had inadvertently picked up one of his sharp tools to have a play and stuck it in his mouth. Thankfully he hadn’t done any more damage, but his face was still raw. She hadn’t been able to go buy any medicine for it yet, she said.
Kids in tow, the mother went into the kitchen to cook my curry. The little boy was upset and irritable and was crying to be picked up and held the whole time, but mum was busy cooking. I almost felt bad for coming there and ordering food when she was so busy with the kids, but then I figured my custom would help pay for the medicine.
My pork curry arrived and smelled delicious.
It tasted brilliant as well. The curry had a strong lemongrass kick to it, as well as some local leaves in the sauce which really made it special. It was also novel for me to eat pork curry… because the Batak people are primarily Christian, unlike the Muslim majority in Indonesia, pork was on the menu at many spots around Lake Toba. It’s usually hard to find.
But as soon as the dish had been put down in front of me, all of a sudden this little fellow jumps on to my table, protesting loudly with hungry meows.
The mother rushed out of the kitchen and grabbed the kitten off the table saying: “Angry cat! Now I have to feed him!”
There’s always too many mouths to feed, right?