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Kari Bihun Medan - Medan Rice Noodles Curry

The city of Medan is a great place to be for sampling good food in almost every corner of the city. My family moved to Jakarta when I was 11, and I crave the food still even now! It is true that as the years gone by, more and more restaurants with main branch in Medan are opening up and setting up shops in Jakarta, especially in North Jakarta centering around Pluit-Muara Karang-Pantai Indah Kapuk area.

Kari Bihun Medan - Medan Rice Noodles Curry
Kari Bihun Medan - Medan Rice Noodles Curry

One of my favorite kari bihun Medan is sold by Tabona. Their kari bihun is famous in Medan, and it is just as famous in Jakarta. So, before I relocated to the States, I have no trouble fixing my cravings of a really good kari bihun. Now though, after 5 months in the States, I am craving like mad for one, and after searching for the perfect kari bihun recipe, I think I have finally nailed it pretty close. :D

Kari Bihun Medan - Medan Rice Noodles Curry

5.0 from 4 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 2 hours 30 mins

Total Time: 3 hours

Serves: 8

Print Recipe


  • 8 cups (2 liter) water
  • 800 gram beef shank, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon oil
  • 3 bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)
  • 2 star anise (Indonesian: bunga lawang/pekak)
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick (Indonesian: kayu manis)
  • 4-5 medium size potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 can (400 ml) coconut milk (Indonesian: santan)
  • 2 tablespoon palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa), or to taste
  • 2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 8 dried chilies (Indonesian: cabe merah kering), soaked in hot water until soften
  • 4 cloves garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)
  • 100 gram shallot (Indonesian: bawang merah)
  • 2 tablespoon coriander seeds (Indonesian: biji ketumbar)
  • 2 teaspoon turmeric powder (Indonesian: bubuk kunyit)
  • 2 teaspoon cumin powder (Indonesian: bubuk jinten)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds (Indonesian: biji kapulaga)
  • 4 candlenuts (Indonesian: kemiri), or macadamia
  • Serve with
  • 300 gram rice noodles (Indonesian: bihun), cooked following instructions on the packet


  1. Place water, beef, and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer until the beef is soft, about 2 hours. Remove scum as needed. (*)
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté spice paste, bay leaves, star anise, and cinnamon stick until fragrant. Pour into the soup.
  3. Add potato wedges into the pot and return to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Add coconut milk, palm sugar, and salt. Stir, and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Adjust the amount of palm sugar and salt to suit your taste.
  5. Turn off heat. Divide the cooked rice noodles into 8 bowls, top with the beef and potatoes curry. Serve piping hot.


  • (*) You can cook the beef in a pressure cooker to speed up the process.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Susan Susan says:

    Thanks for sharing the 'kari-bihun' recipe, Anita. Looking forward to try your recipe in my kitchen :-)

    • Anita Anita says:

      You are welcome, Susan. I hope you will like it.

  • Lenny Lenny says:

    Hello Anita, Can you please advise where to buy beef shank in the US? I have searched all local groceries including Wal-mart, Sam's Club, and Costco at no luck. Thanks!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Lenny, last time I got mine from Asian grocery stores, either Ranch 99 or Marina, the cuts of meat they stock are more Asian cuisine friendly :)

  • Milky Milky says:

    Not being 'super' close to an Asian market these days really puts a damper on a lot of recipes, notably ones calling for lots of fresh ingredients (I once lived right behind a 99 Ranch, so you can only imagine my sadness)
    But as I skimmed for a way to use some tough frozen beef pieces, I saw THIS! The unfortunate thing that kills a lot of my soups and curries is the lack of lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste... you know, all the GOOD STUFF, but this one is more focused on the dried spices that I already had laying around (okay, I'll admit I have the Indonesian bay leaves, which is pretty specific for a non-Indonesian: I didn't even know there was a difference until I read your site! I had been using them in whatever other recipe hahahah) Also, if you are SUPER DUPER far from an Asian market, dried spices are easier to order online.
    I will tell you- the house smelled AAAAMAZING as I made this: and once I tasted it, I don't think anything sent me that warung energy quite like this. I know it's a good bit simplified for overseas cooks, but it's a very accessible dish if you cannot go to a specialized market, and it's a great one for clearing up your spice cabinet! The downside is that most of my spices have been around... so it's important to consider the age/potency of your spices. This dish suited me fine, but I'm pretty aware my spices might not be at 'full blast', so to speak.
    If I can recall, I think I substituted brown sugar for the palm sugar, cardamom powder for whole seed, and I added a touch of corn starch in lieu of candlenuts. Now, I cannot verify authenticity since I don't think I've ever had this dish before (I've eaten and made plenty of curries, so I went with my gut) but I enjoyed eating every bite, so I figure these substitutions aren't deal-breakers. AND IMPORTANT: I cut down the chilies to SIX. It was still spicy, but I know my comfort level is not ready for the SEAsian realness! If you're nervous about the heat AT ALL, I'd go 2 or 3.
    The only snag in my process was using a low-grade mini chopper to make the paste. It didn't grind up the coriander seed, so the soup had a good number of whole seeds floating about. They taste good and all, but they are super potent! If I don't use a better grinder, I may simply use the coriander powder I have on hand. --I have to add that I've been using more coriander seed with this blog than anything else, and it has such a wonderful, citrusy aroma- where have you been all my life?!?!
    So, this soup was so delicious, I think I'm going to make it again this week (I wish I could remember what cut of meat it was, but it's just some grocery store meat meant for slow-cooking) and you better believe it makes a great leftover (I just cook the noodles each time I fix a bowl) and the best part is now I can say I have a favorite dish from Sumatra that isn't just coffee lol

    • Anita Anita says:

      Wow, color me impressed, Milky! You might be the only non-Indonesian that randomly has a stash of Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam) in the pantry. And you are doing the correct substitution too! Brown sugar for palm sugar, though I usually sub the candlenuts with either macadamia or almond. And yup, we use A LOT of coriander seeds. It's probably the one dried spice that I use the most among my big stash of dried spices. :D

    • Moonshado Moonshado says:

      Instead of using cornflour as a substitute for candlenuts try almonds, cashew nuts or even brazil nuts. They all work reasonably well, I use to use brazil nuts, then switched to almonds and now use cashews. The slight taste differnce is not really noticable amongst all the spices and all these nuts work well as a slightly oily thickener.

  • Jenn Jenn says:

    Anita, I just made this yesterday. It is so good! Definitely a winner and will make it again. Thank you for the recipe.

  • Lany Susanto Lany Susanto says:

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