By Bianca Dias-Halpert, Washington, USA

The Power of a Grocery Store

A new environment, new food, new customs and everything familiar left behind.  We usually do not think of a grocery store as being significant in our daily routine.  But when you find one that has the ingredients of the country you left behind it’s like a homecoming for the soul.

In the late 1950’s – early 1960’s there was no place to be found where one could buy sambal, or trassi or tempeh.  In fact it was impossible in North America.  The closest thing was a Chinatown if you were lucky to have one in your district and even then it was not the same. This added to the sense of cultural isolation, particularly in the 1960’s.  Our parents made do and used substitute ingredients.  I don’t know how my mom did it but she always came up with something creative that was delicious.

The Bon Ton

In the early days around 1964, my family heard of a fabulous European bakery all the way up in Canada.  It was simply impossible to get the quality baked goods we were accustomed to in Holland.  The direct route was Interstate-5 all the way north across the border about 4 hours away.  My relatives from Portland, Oregon, which was just under 4 hours south of us on I-5, would drive 16 hours round trip stopping to visit us halfway so they could get these wonderful European pastries in Vancouver, B.C.  They came back with boxes of pastries.  This was the Bon Ton and it still exists today.  Only an immigrant would drive great distances to get a good cream puff.

Mekong Vietnamese Grocery

In the early 1960’s my father came home all excited to tell my mother he had discovered an Asian grocery store with all kinds of Indonesian and Dutch ingredients.  They were over the moon.  The owner is a diminutive Vietnamese lady with flawless skin.  She remembers what each customer’s favorite items were.  My parents are gone now but incredibly she is still there – and her skin is still flawless. Every time I enter the store now it’s a comforting feeling because there is a history and an understanding. She remembered my mother liked the dry salty fish and my dad liked the deep fried sesame balls.


Oosterwyk’s Bakery

“That Dutch bakery in Marysville”.  I’ve heard this for many years and never knew the actual name.  It became such a common destination that everyone knew immediately what place they were referring to.

Marina Market

The Marina Market in Poulsbo, Washington has a remarkable story.  This store has been a magnet for dispersed Indos living on the Kitsap peninsula in Washington state.  It’s a big state and people on that side are mostly restricted to ferry transporation to get to the other side of the sound.  It is marketed as a European grocery store and is situated near a marina so it caters to boaters, hence its name.  The store has many Dutch and Indonesian ingredients, as well German, Danish and other European items.

Every November for their customers they host an open house and offer a free meal. The buffet features all the products in the store so one can get a taste of everything.   Over the years, this open house has also been indirectly responsible for reunions of old friends and  the creation of new friends amongst the Indo community in this area.  Several in the group were former neighbors in Holland over 40 years ago reconnected on this peninsula in this little store.

Ori Deli

This Dutch and Indonesian grocery store is advertised in De Indo magazine and is a point of reference for many living in southern California.  Perhaps some of our California friends can add some background information about this store.

The Traveling Grocery Bus

Several people have talked about a bus or van that used to travel around selling Dutch and Indonesian items in the early 1960’s in southern California. Das Williams mentioned it in his interview (see Indo Profile) and the man’s name was Timmerman. If you have more information about this traveling grocery store please contact us at


  1. Not only does the van still exist but there are several places in Alhambra California one can go for Indo products. The Tip Top sells homemade rempehjeh, sambals…..
    The Indo kitchen makes wonderful Gado Gado. My favorite must whenever I visit my mother.

    Erik Timmerman still makes home stops, he visits my mother every 6 weeks. Reach him at 949-492-7269 and visit Holland store at 1051 W Philadelphia Street Ontario, CA 91762-6145. Enjoy

  2. Ori Deli is located in San Jose in Northern CA. It is owned and operated by Robert Tan and his family. I believe Robert is Chinese Indonesian but speaks Indonesian and Dutch. He was friends of my parents for many years.

    Ori Deli attracts Indos from all over California and Robert keeps photo albums of his many many customers. It has been in business as long as I can remember. 30 years or more? The menu includes sate, mihun, (sp?) Gado Gado, Foo Yung Hi )sp? and many other tasty items. The restaurant is small and basic. We ordered take out almost weekly for a time. The deli is jam packed with Dutch and Indonesian candies, baked goods, spices and the largest assortment of sambals I have ever seen. They are on Snell Ave in south San Jose CA.


  3. The traveling bus/van would come to our home staring in the late 60’s. After I moved away and my parents moved to Laguna Hills, Piet Timmerman continued to come to their home once/month. I believe that Piet has passed away, but his son contiues to drive the bus to the homes of Indos.
    What great memories I have of the very long drawers in the back of the bus, that would produce ‘hagelslag, beschuit, drop, sambal, knorr soups, kaas, chocolade’ and you name it from the Netherlands.

  4. Talk about traveling long distances to get Indo ingredients ….
    We lived a Southern California for a long time and we were able to get most of the spices required to cook our Indo meals. But then we started to have work assignments in other places outside our normal area.
    Germany was not that far from Holland, so a monthly trip to Holland form Bavaria, was a regular outing.
    What we finally learned to do, was make our own Kecap and Sambalans. Without those two basic ingredients, Indos would starve ….
    Then again after coming back for work stints in Switzerland, and settling in Utah, monthly trips to Southern California are a regular trip.
    We still make our own kecap and sambalans, but also have learned to make serundeng, atjar, rempehjeh and all those other side dishes (condiments) my Mom used to make.
    The *Dutch Store* here does carry some stuff, but not really what I am usually am looking for.

  5. Wonderful blog post!

    Our family would travel from San Diego to Artesia (which is about 25 min south of downtown LA ) once every 2 months. We would first visit Artesia Bakery (no longer there) and buy piping hot Saucijzen Broodjes and almond paste filled cookies and pastries. We couldnt eat the Saucijzen Broodjes any quicker than we did, and ususally made a mess on my Opas backseat.
    From there we would continue on to the Holland America store also in Artesia, where us kids would run straight for the Drop aisle, and walk up and down it with our salivary glands going NUTS!! The adults would seemingly take quite a while in there and we would wait in the car and gorge ourselves on drop. They would come out with bags of everything from sambal badjak to hagelslag, frozen harring to german style pickles and bags of kropoek.

    When we would finally leave there we would head down to Susies Deli, also in Artesia and eat lunch. This was my favorite Indonesian Restaurant, and the people who owned it knew my Oma and Opa and I felt like I really belonged once I got there (as long as I didn’t look in the mirror as my fathers very dominant fair skinned genes, nearly completely drown out all trace of my island heritage.) They are unfortunately no longer open.

    We would then go home and fall asleep in the car, and most usually wake up somewhere near an Clemente or Oceanside and promptly start eating some more drop. ahh what sweet memories.

    Nowadays there is a nearby European Grocery Store/ Restaurant called Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad, CA where I go if I am having a drop craving… or I wait for cousins from Holland to come visit.

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