Food is one easy way of remembering home. Indonesians are prepared go the extra mile to find tempeh or even their favourite brand of instant noodles when they are living abroad. Germans may have a hankering for the juicy bratwursts they enjoyed when they were children, while the Swiss may miss dense fragrant bread -- which is quiet unlike the fluffy, white, tasteless bread that is becoming more and more popular in Jakarta
In the land of rice, it is not always easy for expatriates to find bakery goods or meat products that taste like the ones they are used to. While they may remain excited about local food for many months, the time will invariably come when the mere mention of crusty bread or spicy snags will make their mouths water
Luckily, in Jakarta there is a place to find such old-fashioned staples.
Hidden behind a row of small shops on Jl. Ampera Raya, South Jakarta, The Edelweiss Delicatessen is an unexpected find
Opened by Swiss national Thomas Bart in 2002, the store sells traditional European bakery products and meat in the form of frozen goods
Bart left his job as a hotel chef and started his own business with his Indonesian wife after observing the market for quality meat and bread
Jakarta has a vibrant expatriate community. According to official data, some 36,000 foreigners lived in Jakarta in 2004.
When he worked in the hotel, Bart said, people were forever coming up to him asking where they could buy good sausages
He started distributing meat products from Sven's Choice -- a meat processing company based in Bali -- in 2002, providing traditional hams, cold cuts, bacon and sausages such as Old English Pork, Chorizo, Merguez, Bratwurst, English Beef, Wiener Wuerstchen, and more.
Last year, he began to branch out, becoming the sole distributor of Hiestand, a Swiss-based leading international producer of deep-frozen and convenience bakery goods.
Bart imports the bread -- which is made from ingredients like pure butter and flour from non-genetically modified production
from Hiestands' branch company in Malaysia.
Now, his freezers also hold a selection of bakery goods, such as croissants, baguettes, sourdough bread, rolls and snacks.
One of the most popular products is the Swiss Butter Gipfel or Swiss Croissant. The Gipfel has a crisp buttery taste but without the hint of grease or fat that often accompanies the croissants baked locally.
Other favourites are Laugen Sandwich rolls, more popularly known as pretzel bread; Hiestands' sourdough rye, which has a rich nutty flavour; and its muesli bread, which is laced with sweet dried fruit and walnuts.
Bart said that many people here didn't like to buy bread rolls or baguettes in the supermarket because they were often stale.
While Hiestands products are frozen, they need only 8 to 18 minutes of baking time in the oven.
So, it comes out crisp and warm," Bart said. Bart recalls the thanks he got from one customer. "I've been living in Indonesia for five years and could never find good bread. Finally, you have it!" the customer said
Bart said that in the six years since he had opened the business it had been growing well.
He said revenues had been increasing from year to year and the shop had recorded a 20 percent business growth from last year. "We have new customers every week," he said, adding that each week five to six new customers would make their way out to the store.
Edelweiss Delicatessen supplies hotels and restaurants and does home deliveries as well. Bart has another shop in Sentul, Bogor, as well as a counter at KemChicks supermarket in Pacific Place mall.
Bart said people mostly knew about the store through word of mouth.
The shop's customer profile has shifted from 95 percent foreigners in 2002 to 60 percent foreigners.
Bart said the growing number of local customers was a pleasing development. "The number of Indonesian customers has been increasing. With the foreigners, it's difficult to tell because they come and go. That's why we pay a lot of attention to Indonesians because they stay here."
He said many Indonesians had studied or lived in Europe. "They look for a certain item and when they try it they say 'Oh wow'."