Covid-19 changed the way people ordered food from Yati Samadian at her Java Room restaurant in Parnell.
With the border closures many of her Indonesian customers who can’t travel back to their homeland and were craving for comfort food from home started asking Samadian, 63, to cook authentic flavours from her West Java province of Bandung.
Thinking familiar taste and aroma of dishes would help her people cope better during the pandemic, she complied.
The word spread and soon many in the community started ordering these Bandung dishes rather than what’s on her menu.
Today, among many in Auckland’s Indonesian community, Samadian’s “secret menu” – which includes siomay komplit, empal gepuk and karedok – has become Auckland’s worst-kept secret.
Gatherings have been held at Java Room centred around these meals and dishes that can be traced back to West Java – but few outside the local Indonesian community here know about them.
Samadian, who has been involved with Java Room since it opened in 1995 – first as a worker and now owner – said the last two years have been particularly challenging.
“These are food I grew up with and what many people from the part of Indonesia that I come from eat with their families every other day in Bandung,” Samadian said.
“In Indonesia they are common food, but I know that here, many including myself will definitely regard them as very special or indeed iconic.”