Love letters to the Indonesian Community by: Kita Cream, Mami's Kitchen, Gurih Cookies

Three San Francisco based Indonesian Queens; Kartika, Reka, and Sammy are dishing out a their love of community and culture through dessert. 

We've all come to know February as the month of love, and what comes along with it? Desserts, of course! Who doesn't love dessert? These amazing women are serving up both traditional and modern spins on the classics we all know and love! 

Whether its flavors of nastar, klepon, and all things keju these chefs have both inspired us and made us drool over their amazing feed time and time again. We are so lucky to have been able to learn more about the stories behind their sweet dishes and what inspired them to bring the Indonesian dessert scene to the forefront. In recent years, the San Francisco Bay Area lost its only two brick and mortar restaurants, so there has been a lack of Indonesian representation in the Bay Area food scene. Although the COVID-19 pandemic brought scores of challenges to the communities, the impact also exploded into all these home chefs showcasing their better-than-take-out creations.

Read along as we showcase their love for their cultural roots and be sure to order some treats from them just in time for Valentine's, Galentine's, and every day in between. 

Kartika of Mami’s Kitchen 

I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, but I learned to cook when I moved to California. 

I love the way my mother cooked. The taste is still in my head . For me, cooking is the "cure" for life. Like many Indonesians who moved from their town, I believe that their mother has been the biggest influence on their cooking styles and understanding of food. 

My mom was always ‘cooking from the heart’, always trying to please my father, and her children. 

I call this 'Mama-style cooking' and this is what I want to create and want my customers to experience. I want them to feel the love in the food!

Kita Cream 

My name is Sammy Phan. I’m an American born Chinese-Indonesian who loves to create. I recently graduated from Cal Poly SLO (class of 2020) and am currently back in my hometown, Union City, CA. I have many passions and interests but throughout college I’ve come to love making and sharing ice cream.

  • Social Media: IG: @kita.cream

What inspired you to become a chef / food biz owner?

Ever since I was young, I have loved creating and cooking. My mom has always said that comes from my grandmother who has her own food business in the hills of Bandung, Indonesia. Whenever I got to visit her, I remember how people not only came for the amazing food, but as a gathering space to connect with the community and to enjoy life with loved ones. Food has always been one of my favorite ways to love on others and I love how food can bring people together and the impact food can have on individuals and communities.

Why Ice cream? Is there a story behind it?

Ice cream is something that brings joy to people and something most people are quite familiar with. This allows me to share the culture that I grew up with and love, with those who have never been exposed, as well as bring a new twist on nostalgic flavors to those who also grew up with them. In college, I had this tradition where I’d throw an ice cream party at the end of each quarter and I’d make ice cream for everyone who wanted to come. At the time, I had a $13 ice cream machine that used a freezer bowl to churn. I got this machine from a thrift store that my old Sunday school teacher told me to check when I asked her about homemade ice cream. Throughout finals week I’d be making, churning ice cream, and refreezing the bowl each day. Bringing people together and watching everyone have a good time and enjoy my creations was one of my favorite memories of college. As someone who loves to cook and create, I found that ice cream gave me the perfect medium to unleash creativity and be allowed to constantly innovate. I also found myself constantly critiquing ice cream and comparing the subtle differences of the texture, flavor, sweetness, and density with every scoop I ate.

What does courage mean to you?

Courage is something that I feel looks very different to every individual. It differs drastically depending on things like one’s circumstances, life experiences, or personality. For someone who is struggling, courage can look like allowing themselves to have hope again. For someone who has experienced trauma, it can look like acknowledging what happened. When I look at my grandma, I see a courageous woman who isn’t afraid to keep pushing to do what she loves despite her age or where her family is. For my parents, courage looked like coming to a foreign country all alone and working hard to create a better future for themselves and their family. For me, courage looks like stepping out of a path that is paved and expected of me, to follow my roots. As someone who loves to create and has many passions, it looks like not being afraid to commit to trying something, knowing that it might not be where I end up. Growing up in an Asian American household and going to a four-year university has ingrained the idea that a corporate job is your only acceptable next goal. To defy this and believe in a “far-fetched” and risky dream that may disappoint those who have helped me get to where I am, has been something that has taken courage in this season. In a few years, my idea of courage might have an entirely different meaning and significance but for now, courage means standing up for what you believe in despite what others or society may say. It is defining life’s success on a personal scale instead of succumbing to what measures we are told to view it by.

Where can we expect to see you in the next few years?

Since I have just graduated from university this past summer (2020), post grad has proved to be filled with change and uncertainty. The world we expected to enter into has changed drastically and I know that things can and will continue to change. With that being said, I hope to be able to gain more experience in the small food business industry so that one day, I will be able to open up my own cafe. A place where people can gather, be connected with one another, and make their own impact as well. I hope to use food to bring together a community that helps each other out and is not afraid to seek help or support those who need help. Along with this I hope to share food and ice cream that evokes nostalgia and sheds light on the hidden wonders of Asian and more specifically Indonesian flavors and cuisine. Although I may not know what the future holds, you can bet I’ll still be creating in one way or another and using my creations to bring people together. Whether big or small, I hope to make a difference in people’s lives through whatever I end up doing.


Reka of Gurih Cookies

 

I have West Sumatran roots, but am a San Francisco native. My parents have always instilled our Indonesian culture into us. As a child, I’ve performed many Indonesian traditional dances. My parents kept me active in participating with various Indonesian or Southeast Asian community gatherings or events in different cities. Being that my mom was a dance teacher specializing in West Sumatran dances, that kept me rooted in the culture.

I’ve always loved to eat and am open to trying different things! Growing up my mother made me stay in the kitchen every time she was cooking, teaching me techniques that have been passed on from generations. From there, I grew to love the art of cooking. I've also catered meals to foreign students in the past, which brought me to remember everything that my mom taught me.

I'm a home chef, full-time mom and also work in the tech industry full-time. Pre-Covid, I had worked part time at a restaurant as well. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for over a decade in different capacities from front staff to management. I truly enjoy the hustle and bustle of the restaurant atmosphere and meeting new people.

Social Media:
IG: Gurih.Table / r3kz
FB: Gurih.Table / Reka Nilamsuri Saleh

What inspired you to become a chef / food biz owner?

I’ve always had a passion for cooking and cooking for others. To see the smiles on their faces and coming back for more makes my heart happy and fulfilled. Something a local chef said resonated with me.

“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together.” - Guy Fieri

Why did you want to highlight the food you are creating?

I wanted to highlight the kukis because I feel that’s an area that hasn't been fully tapped into. I wanted to stand out by creating something traditional with a twist. With that said, I had a vision with the kukis in being able to reach out to more than just people in the Bay Area [doing shipping]. Not only can you treat yourself. But, also give it as a gift to others for birthdays or other special occasions as well! ☺️

What is your favorite dish? Is there a story behind it?

My favorite dish is Dendeng Balado. My mom makes the best Dendeng. It’s a West Sumatran dish where you marinate the sliced beef in spices. Afterwards, you would use a mortar and pestle to flatten it out and slowly fry it till it’s crispy. You would then toss it in red chili sauce with fried potato wedges and serve it over hot rice!

What does courage mean to you?

Taking that leap of faith or taking that first step even if you can’t see the rest of the way. Know that in the end, with grit and tenacity it will all work itself out.

Where can we expect to see you in the next few years?

My dream is to open a little cafe. I would love to see my brand expand and bridge cultures together!

Thank you so much to Kartika, Sammy, and Reka for sharing their stories with us! Tuk Tuk box is proud to exclusively feature Southeast Asian ingredients and include refugee, migrant, and generational stories in every box.

If you, or someone you know want to share their story with us send us an email hello@tuktukbox.com. Stay tuned for future stories and the newest products by subscribing to our email list serv.