Many folks might mistakenly think that “Bika Ambon” is a delicacy from Ambon City in the Maluku Islands. Despite the “Ambon” in its name, these food actually comes from North Sumatra Province.
Bika Ambon: A Taste of Medan
Bika Ambon is a local specialty that hails from Medan, North Sumatra. This sweet treat is quite popular and often doubles as a unique souvenir for tourists. It stands out with its bright yellow hue and a sponge-like texture. Its distinct flavor and alluring aroma make it an irresistible treat.
Unveiling the Unique History of Bika Ambon
Bika Ambon is a North Sumatra delicacy with a distinctive history, including the backstory of the “Ambon” in its name. To uncover more about what makes it unique and its roots, let’s delve deeper into its story.
The Tale of Bika Ambon’s Origin
The history of Bika Ambon is a rich tapestry woven with diverse cultural influences and historical events. The inclusion of “Ambon” in the name of this Medan specialty adds a special touch to its history and origins.
The name “Bika Ambon” finds its origins in the term “bika,” which initially referred to a Malay cake also known as “bingka.” Over time, it underwent modifications with the addition of palm sap or toddy as a leavening agent, giving rise to its unique flavor and spongy texture.
In the 1980s, these food started gaining popularity on Majapahit Street in Medan. Initially, this delicacy was often enjoyed with ice cream in the 1970s, creating a fascinating taste combination. Some sources even claim that the terms “bika” and “bibingka” were introduced by the Portuguese, initially referring to cakes made from rice flour.
In addition to the various origin stories related to the term “bika” and Portuguese influence, there are other historical narratives surrounding these food. One such tale links to a region known as Amplas, which was divided into western and eastern areas. The eastern region was known as ‘kebon’ due to its laborer settlements, tobacco farms, and cacao plantations. In contrast, the western area was called ‘pabrik’ because of the presence of latex factories.
The Art of Crafting Medan’s Bika Ambon
Bika Ambon, a North Sumatra specialty, undergoes a unique and time-consuming production process. Preparing it, the delicious cake from Medan, is quite an ordeal and can take up to 12 hours. The distinctive sponge-like holes in the cake testify to its complex production process, with specific rules to achieve the best results. Here’s how Medan’s Bika Ambon is made:
Selecting the Right Ingredients:
Crafting Bika Ambon requires specific raw materials. Fresh eggs are a must and are typically hatched a day before use. The coconut water used should be from coconuts grown along the coast to ensure that these food rises perfectly and doesn’t turn out dense.
The Essential Ingredients:
While the preparation process for Bika Ambon may be complex and time-consuming, the basic ingredients are fairly simple. They include sago flour, wheat flour, coconut water, yeast, coconut milk, eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla. To add some flavor variety, natural extracts like jackfruit, durian, chocolate cheese, pandan, and mocha can be introduced to the batter.
Coconut Milk Magic:
The process kicks off with coconut milk brought to a boil with calamansi lime and pandan leaves. Once it’s cooled, other ingredients, such as eggs, wheat flour, sugar, and calamansi lime juice, are added to the coconut milk one by one. All these components are thoroughly mixed, and the batter is left to rest for a few hours for sedimentation.
Cooking up a Storm:
Once the batter has settled, it’s poured into a flat-bottomed wok and cooked over moderate heat until it solidifies. And then, this method creates the characteristic spongy holes that set Bika Ambon apart.
Nowadays, Bika Ambon comes in various flavors that keep expanding. In addition to the classic yellow version with a strong coconut aroma, there are flavors like jackfruit, durian, chocolate cheese, pandan, and mocha, offering a diverse culinary experience.
Bika Ambon is a highly sought-after souvenir from Medan. Beyond its delightful taste, it has a reasonable shelf life. It can last for 3-4 days without the need for preservatives. Its soft and spongy texture makes it an ideal companion for morning tea or coffee. With a range of flavors available, Bika Ambon is a North Sumatra specialty that you shouldn’t pass up when visiting Medan.
Bika Ambon, as a Medan specialty from North Sumatra, comes with some fun facts. Here are some intriguing tidbits about these food:
The Name Can Be Misleading:
Despite its name, “Ambon,” Bika Ambon actually comes from Medan, North Sumatra, rather than Ambon, Maluku, as many people might think. The term “Ambon” in this cake’s name might refer to Jalan Ambon in Medan, where this cake was first created, or it could have a different meaning related to its spongy texture.
The Origin of the Name Bika Ambon:
The name “Bika” in Bika Ambon finds its inspiration in the traditional Malay cake, “Bika” or “Bingka.” Over time, these food was modified with the addition of toddy or palm sap as a leavening agent. And then, setting it apart from the Malay Bika cake.
An Elaborate Production Process:
Crafting it takes time, sometimes up to 12 hours. The process involves mixing the batter, allowing it to settle, and baking it. And then, crafting this cake requires patience and specific skills.
Simple Raw Materials:
Despite the complex preparation process, the raw materials used for these food are straightforward and readily available. Basic ingredients include sago flour, wheat flour, coconut water, yeast, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. And then, the flavor can be enhanced with the addition of natural extracts according to preference.
Limited Shelf Life:
Bika Ambon is a traditional cake that does not use preservatives, resulting in a limited shelf life. And then, the cake remains fresh for only 3-4 days, after which its texture may become harder.
When visiting Medan, you will encounter numerous Bika Ambon vendors, especially in Majapahit Street and its surroundings. These food is often chosen as a unique Medan souvenir. Its offering diverse culinary experiences with various flavors such as pandan, chocolate, cheese, and more.