I moved to California ten months ago when my husband was offered a position in Google. Living far away from home and family might sound daunting, but fortunately, I was rather trained in that. Or so I thought.
I come from Solo, a small town in Indonesia who recently came to spotlight since the mayor rose to become the newly-elect president of Indonesia. Right after high school, I moved to 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’s just a two-hour journey by plane from Solo, while California is totally at the other side of the earth. And one thing I miss the most besides family: The Food.
When I was back home, good foods are so abundant, even if I don’t feel like cooking. The streets are literally lined up with rows and rows of food peddlers which offer a great variety of dishes and all you have to do is choose. If you come from Asia, I am sure you could relate and might take a journey down memory lane of your own too.
You can get as lazy as you want and still you won’t be starving. 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 big to middle-sized 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 order 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 so fragrant. Although they only start serving their customers during wee hours, people have started queuing an hour before the opening time because the food is so popular that it’s gonna be sold out before the rooster crows at dawn.
So you see… All my life, I have been having 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’s no more lazy days around: If I want it, I gotta cook it. I’ve got no choice but to rely on nobody but me. Thanks to the Asian stores who are scattered with things I thought I only could find back home, now I can recreate the magical dinner spread that 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 some aisles dedicated to ingredients and packed foods that originated from several countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Not only that, the Indonesians living in Bay Area taught me a lot of things about cooking. They are generally great in terms of cooking, perhaps because like me, they wanted to still have a taste of home but they’ve got nobody to buy it from. Hence they learned to cook everything by themselves, and they become masters at it. Their cooking is so good that I could knock their doors and have lunch there and I could’ve thought I 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.
P.S. There are some Indonesian restaurants in Bay Area that you might want to give a chance on one of your weekend eat-outs. Here is some listings that I found in Yelp and I think you should give them a try.