Across the sea: A story about Yan Li- PondokSunny
(Mrs. Yao Yan Li shares her happiness being a pastry cook in Taiwan)
Saying "Hello, Yan Li, how many are you?" is like greeting myself every day. My name is Yao Yan Li. I've run a dessert shop named "Yan Li- PondokSunny " with my daughter for five years, and this is the first year that we moved to Nanda Road. We sell many homestyle dishes that I loved to eat when I was a child in Indonesia, such as Rendang, turmeric chicken thighs, Nyonya Cake, and Mille Crepe Cake.
Many people asked me, "Yan Li, when did you learn how to make these savory foods and sweets?". I think it was the first year that I came to Taiwan for marriage. I missed my home and family so much! Although my husband had always accompanied me, due to language barriers and cultural differences, I often felt lonely and helpless. When I came to Taiwan at the very beginning, I was not used to Taiwan's soy sauce. Indonesia's soy sauce tastes sweeter. Coupled with that, Indonesia is also a tropical country and doesn't have a winter season, so normally, Indonesians don't drink hot soup to warm our stomachache. I was really not used to Taiwan's winter! So, I tried to explore my homestyle dishes in Hsinchu to ease my homesickness. Even so, I still couldn't forget my mom's cuisines that always impressed my taste buds and found no familiar flavor at my hometowners' diners. Therefore, I started making my signature dish, Rendang, and I found that my husband and my children love it. Every time I watched them eat the food I made at the table, I felt so warm and confident that encouraged me to start making my own food and desserts.
With my husband's support, I rent my friend's grocery store and opened a 10-Pyeong a combinative shop in Beipu Township in Hsinchu. At that time, I always made Nyonya Cake in the early morning, making the shop full of the fragrance of coconut milk and taro and chatted with my friends. The then life was simple and pleasing.
Ten years in Beipu Township passed rapidly, and I still love making desserts. But, it sort of makes me tired physically. Coupled with that, my friend who had worked with me for long needed to return home. So, the double workload made me even want to close the shop. But I couldn't give it up because I love this place. At that time, I asked my daughter If I should get a chef's certificate and wondered if she could come run the shop with me. She didn't answer. So, I was so depressed and decided to return to Hsinchu.
When I was back to Hsinchu, I was still wanting to make desserts, so I sometimes made some sweets and sold them at my friend's shop. During this period, my older daughter happened to be back in Hsinchu. She helped me a lot and seemingly started liking to make desserts. In the beginning, she passively helped me wrap the desserts and buy ingredients and then even started making sweets. She also helped me mail our handmade desserts, regardless of sunny days or rainy days. We fought a lot at the very beginning because of our different concepts. Selling our desserts in my friend's shop made it hard for us to do quality management. Also, it was difficult for us to ask my friend to improve the environment where our desserts were sold, but my daughter couldn't bear that our handmade desserts were damaged due to environmental causes. One day, my daughter advised me to open our own dessert shop to make our hard work paid off and built a proper environment to keep the quality of. Therefore, we started looking for a suitable shop front.
Before we found a new shop front, my daughter advised me to get a chef's certificate if we open a restaurant in the future. I actually refused it because my Chinese reading and writing were not that good. However, we studied really hard, and my daughter explained every single question for me and practiced with me. With my daughter's encouragement, teachers' guidance, and our hard work, we finally got certificates for western culinary. It felt so amazing to get a certificate. It was one big breakthrough for me.
Now my daughter and I are running a restaurant on Nanda Road. We've been through a lot and faced ups and downs. I also appreciate many people's supports and love for me. I love my home country, Indonesia, but I also deeply love my other home, Taiwan.
(The dessert shop, "Yan Li- PondokSunny ", is widely loved by people)
Written by Yao Yan Li姚燕麗