Balinese immigrant brings flavors of her beloved local culture to her new Penticton home – Penticton News
“Community Champions” is a media campaign led by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership (SOSLIP) and supported by SOICS & Castanet. We share stories that raise awareness of immigrants’ contributions to the community while showcasing the small businesses of new Canadians.
A family from afar brings the delicious flavors of Penticton to town.
Kristin Tanuwidjaja, aka Christine Wieler, was born and raised on the beautiful island of Bali in Indonesia. One of seven children, Kristin was immersed in the culture of large gatherings of family and friends over delicious meals prepared together under the supervision of the best cook in the world – their mother.
The Tanuwidjaja family ran a woodcarving business creating animal sculptures and other artistic projects from sandalwood.
Kristin helped with marketing and distribution, mostly in Australia, which is quite close to Bali. Through this work, in addition to the local Bahasa and Balinese languages that she spoke fluently, she learned English. A graduate in tourism, she also developed her career working in a hotel.
“I loved riding my scooter to and from work, to places. I still miss it,” Kristin shares.
At one of the social gatherings, Kristin met friends of her family who lived in Ontario. They owned a greenhouse and needed help with the business, so they invited Kristin to work with them.
“I wasn’t sure at first. I thought… hmm… Canada is so far away and so cold. My mother didn’t want me to go so far either. But I decided to apply for a work visa and try for a year,” she continues.
Kristin arrived in Canada in the fall of 2013. She was not happy about having to wear layers of clothes, socks, boots and hats. He missed his sandals, his scooter, his mother’s cooking. She also missed the culture of socializing where neighbors, family and friends visit without invitation.
“I didn’t know you had to make an appointment to visit a friend in Canada. At first I felt rejected but then I realized it was because of the value of time. Here, people are paid by the hour and every hour counts. In Indonesia we are paid monthly, so the value of time is different.
While in Ontario, Kristin met her future husband Brad and soon moved to the small community of Morden, Manitoba to be with him.
She started cooking traditional Indonesian dishes for Brad, who was not a big fan of international cuisine at the time.
“I was hesitant to try it because I wasn’t used to trying new foods. I didn’t eat much Chinese food or ethnic food at all,” Brad recalls. But when he tried a wide variety of dishes that Kristin had lovingly prepared for him, he fell in love with all the rich flavors, and even more so with Kristin.
“We had a really funny episode during our first days together. I was working out and Kristin called me to come in and have dinner. I sat down at the table and was shocked to find my food was cold. I asked Kristin, “Why didn’t you call me while the food was still hot?” I can’t eat cold food! I didn’t know they served room temperature food in Indonesia because it’s hot there,” Brad shares with a broad smile.
“Cooking is in my family’s blood,” shares Kristin. “My mother is an incredible cook. She is my mentor and my inspiration. My sister owns a restaurant business in Indonesia. I love cooking our traditional dishes using my family recipes. Because we use so many fresh herbs and vegetables in the dishes, I never get sick.
Brad and many of the couple’s friends who tried Kristin’s cooking loved it. So Kristin and Brad decided to bring Indonesian cuisine to Morden, Manitoba and beyond.
They bought a custom trailer to serve as a food truck. Kristin and her niece created a logo using bright green, orange and yellow colors aimed at bringing you to tropical Bali.
They adjusted the spice level to mild to suit local tastes and served the homemade chili sauce as a side dish for those who liked spicy food. It wasn’t easy to entice the people of Morden to try Indonesian cuisine, but with time and a lot of patience, they succeeded. They also managed to start a family and now have a five-year-old daughter, Orianna.
Tired of the cold and wanting a change, the family moved to Penticton in October 2019. They brought their “Rasa Indo” (Taste of Indonesia) food truck with them.
During the low season it was very difficult to operate the food truck, but they parked it outside the Cherry Lane mall and kept trying. Then COVID-19 hit and brought even more challenges. But “Rasa Indo” survived.
“Canada is my new home now. I like the rules. I think they are good for you. But I don’t like paperwork. I also like people discussing various issues, big and small. They communicate and solve problems together. And I love peace and quiet…Brad is my biggest encouragement. He helps me talk to customers and introduce them to traditional Indonesian food,” concludes Kristin.