I moved to California when my husband was offered a position in Google. Living far away from home and family might sound daunting, but fortunately, I was used to it. Or so I thought! I come from Solo, a small town in Indonesia which has recently been in the spotlight as our mayor became the President of Indonesia. Right after high school, I had left Solo for Singapore for my undergraduate study and spent one-third of my life there. Still, Singapore is very much closer to Indonesia in terms of culture and proximity. It is after all just a two-hour journey by plane from Solo, while California is on the other side of the earth. And the one thing I miss the most besides family? The Food.
When I was at home I was used to good food being abundant, even if I didn’t want to cook. The streets are lined with rows and rows of food peddlers offering a great variety of dishes and all you have to do is choose. If you come from Asia, I am sure you can relate and that this may inspire a trip down memory lane.
You can get as lazy as you want and still there is plenty to eat. Even if you can’t come to the food, the food will come to you. It’s normal to see food peddlers biking their wagons around the blocks like this.
Most mid-sized to big towns in Indonesia have very vibrant night life. But no, you won’t really find bars and discotheques there. Instead, you can fulfill any cravings you have, even when it’s past your bedtime. In fact, some of these food peddlers only start their first orders at 2.00 A.M. These food peddlers sell the best gudeg in town. Gudeg is a dish made of young jackfruits which is braised in coconut milk and spices and cooked over low heat for hours, which makes it super fragrant. Although they only start serving their customers during the wee hours, people have started queuing an hour before opening time because the food is so popular that it’s will be sold out before the rooster crows at dawn.
So you see, all my life, I have had easy access to Indonesian food. It wasn’t even difficult to find when I was in Singapore, which makes moving to Bay Area a big change. There are no more lazy days. If I want it, I have to cook it. I’ve got no choice but to rely on myself. Thanks to the Asian stores that are scattered with things I thought I only could find back home, I can now recreate the magical dinner spread that I thought I could only have in my dreams.
Most Asian stores like 99 Ranch, Lion Supermarket, and smaller Asian grocery stores are so easy to find in Bay Area. They even have aisles dedicated to ingredients and packed foods that have come from countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Not only that, the Indonesians living in Bay Area have taught me a lot of things about cooking. They are generally great cooks, perhaps this is because like me, they still want a taste of home but they’ve got nobody to buy it from. Hence they have learned to cook everything by themselves, and they have become masters at it. Their cooking is so good that I could knock their doors and have lunch there and I could believe that I had just dined in an Indonesian restaurant.
I recently learned how to cook gudeg which I find quite an achievement since I thought it was impossibly hard to make. Talk about the power of having to do everything on your own! My friends even persuaded me to make it especially for a fundraising project for the landslide victims back in Indonesia. Had I not moved to California, this couldn’t have happened.
Finding or making food from home can be a great comfort, for some it is gudeg for others it may be baking but food is important to us all.
Have you found good Indonesia food in the Bay? Or have you found food from your own home country, let us know?
A rollercoaster of emotions is felt when going through a big international move. This experience is the phenomenon known as culture shock.