Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and the world’s 4th most populous nation with more than 250 million residents. In the lush area surrounding Sumatra’s Lake Toba in western Indonesia, live the ethnic groups of Batak people. Although the majority of Indonesians are Muslim, ethnic Bataks are mostly Christian. Their homeland around Lake Toba is dotted with towns and villages, rainforest and palm oil plantations, church steeples, rice fields, fruit and other crops of vegetables.

Saksang (pronounced SAHK-sahng) is an important dish in Batak cuisine. Eaten at weddings, funerals, church celebrations and more, it is used for many cultural traditions, especially for Toba Batak people. It is made from pork, and given Indonesia’s Muslim majority, this dish is therefore unique and rare in the country.

For a foreigner living among them, it is almost certain to be encountered. In my life at the dormitory of the Deaconess Theological School in Balige, I saw the entire process six times and ate saksang regularly as I attended occasions where it was served.

Now, here it is, a brief exploration on how to make saksang:

  • First, you need a pig. It may take a few strong men to make it secure.
  • The difficult part: kill it and save the blood.
  • Meanwhile, spices are prepared (the all-inclusive list wasn’t fully translated to me, and not all ingredients would be recognized to those who haven’t lived in SE Asia).
  • Blowtorches are helpful to char the skin, after which it is easier to scrape off.
  • Cut it up and boil the meat.
  • Cut meat off bones and mince it.
  • Add minced meat to an extra large wok on outdoor flame.
  • Add spices and blood. Stir.
  • Stir more. And cook until ready.
  • Eat with rice and enjoy.
  • The head is also specially prepared, and used in a ceremony of blessing. When I left, a special prayer and blessing was given to me.

NOTE:  Here I want to share about a cultural dish from where I lived in Indonesia, but I’m warning any readers that aside from a general description I give, a few of the photos below are a bit graphic, as there’s chopped up pig parts in them. I hope, however, that by sharing this–something considered normal in its own cultural context–I bring what would otherwise be unknown to my readers.

Below, a gallery. Saksang: how it’s made.

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4 thoughts on “Making Saksang

  1. Megan, It was so good to see you and connect with you on Friday. You have been on my heart the last few days. I will be holding you in prayer and hope things get better for you. Moira

  2. Dear Megan, For some reason I’ve been a bit behind in reading emails, and this post is quite amazing, in so many ways! Oh my, what gifts of tolerance and appreciation of others’ cultures you have brought to this occasion of making the pig ready for eating! The people you worked with there might not have fully appreciated the fact that most probably most Americans would shy away from this process :*). What a gift you have been in their lives! How are things going for you there? I’m hoping that as we move into the fall, there will be openings for you. Is it possible for you to return to ministry in Indonesia, where you have such a love for the people and culture, I’m wondering? Here the sun has finally (!) disappeared for a bit behind the clouds, and some cooler weather, along with some much-needed rain, has arrived. There have been people coming and going, and Kristi and her little boy Kaelen have moved to Mt. Vernon in time for the school year’s beginning. And I haven’t done one thing about a job search, which I most assuredly need to start. Sten, who couldn’t use his right arm all summer, before and after his shoulder surgery, is now in physical therapy and able to drive (yay for me :*)!), so things should calm down a bit here, leaving me without excuses for avoiding looking for work. I hope you are surrounded by people there who love and appreciate you, and that you are taking extra-good care of yourself in what has been such a long time of job-searching. I’m wondering if the Lutheran organization that sent you to Indonesia might have some ideas for you? I hope you’ve perhaps been compiling your amazing Indonesian stories and pictures for publication– you are so gifted in both arenas. With a prayer that goodness and much blessing will come your way today, Jackie Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2015 04:04:51 +0000 To: jleksen@hotmail.com

  3. Hi Jackie…I’m glad you liked it. I sat with this post for awhile wondering how far I should go in my description, knowing the low tolerance of North Americans for details of the process.

    As for what the Lutherans might do, the deaconess community can only make recommendations and notify me of positions available; they can’t place me anywhere without a real application/interview process–and ALL the recommendations I received and positions pursued and entered into, I have failed to get the job. So, it is me who has failed and not the denomination and not my community.
    In Indonesia, I was officially employed through the headquarter office of the ELCA (not the deaconess community–those are separate things) for a contracted specific job that will no longer be offered as I had it. Any other employment for the global work of the ELCA would still require me to move through the process according to protocol (thorough application, references, and intense day-long interview), and at present there is not anything similar in Indonesia. I would someday return as a volunteer, but I lack the financial resources for that to happen.
    Every job the ELCA offers in global missions is one that has been requested by the companion churches, and not offered because of an idea from the North American church body. This ensures that good work is done and the old system of colonialism is not continued.
    For me, my entire job search over the last year has meant nothing but “you’ve got good passions and some qualifications, but you’re just not the right person for this job” or “great talent, but not quite enough experience yet, kid.”
    Time for a new road…

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