Somersworth restaurant serves up authentic Indonesian eats

Husband-wife duo Markus Subroto and Tamara Tasya at their Somersworth restaurant Tasya's Kitchen. The restaurant serves authentic Indonesian food. (Courtesy Mrinali Dhembla)

Husband-wife duo Markus Subroto and Tamara Tasya at their Somersworth restaurant Tasya's Kitchen. (Courtesy Mrinali Dhembla)

Husband-wife duo Markus Subroto and Tamara Tasya at their Somersworth restaurant Tasya's Kitchen. (Courtesy Mrinali Dhembla)

By Mrinali Dhembla

June 10, 2024

Almost 25 years ago, when Tamara Tasya (pronounced taa-shiya) moved to Somersworth from Indonesia, finding food that reminded her of home was almost impossible.

“When I first came here, it was hard to find Indonesian food around here,” she said, adding that there were also no easily accessible ethnic grocery stores in the area. “Basically I was eating Indonesian food everyday (back home), and suddenly I was here.”

It was homesickness and love for her culture that inspired Tasya, who is originally from Surabaya an Indonesian port city in Java, to start a food business.

“We had an Indonesian community here, so we started sharing our food at church and asking people, ‘Is it good?’” she said, adding that she and her husband Markus Subroto first started catering on a small scale for other Indonesian families in Somersworth that just didn’t have the time to cook recipes from home.

With a population of almost 2,000 Indonesian people, Somersworth—that has a population of almost 11,000 residents in Strafford County—is also known as “Little Indonesia,” and is thought to be the first place in the country to be called so.

As people began purchasing her food, Tasya, along with Subroto, focused on serving more authentic food by following their mothers’ recipes.

In 2004, the husband-wife duo took over a former pizza place on Route 108 Somersworth and started their own Indonesian food business.

Almost two years later, the couple decided to shut the restaurant down, after welcoming their youngest daughter into the world.

Then in September 2019, Subroto and Tasya made a comeback—they were working full time at General Electric and Velcro in the meantime—into the food business after opening Tasya’s Kitchen on High Street in Somersworth.

“I waited till my daughter was a teenager,” Tasya said.

The dine-in restaurant offers classic Indonesian dishes from Surabaya and Semarang (Subroto’s home) such as Tahu Isi— a crispy fried tofu dish—and Soto Ayam Surabaya—an Indonesian chicken noodle soup cooked with turmeric.

“Sometimes on our menu we combine dishes from Surabaya and Semarang,” she said, highlighting the restaurant’s special menu that changes every weekend. “That is why our menu is kind of interesting… food from my hometown is salty, and in his hometown it is sweet. So sweet and salty together, and then we add a kick of some spice.”

Tasya said soon after the opening of the restaurant, they had a setback due to the COVID-19 slowdown, butthey never closed the restaurant.

“We just had the restaurant open for takeout, and then slowly opened it to half the capacity,” she said. “But we survived. The local people supported us really well.”

Despite the rugged beginning, and much to Tasya and Subroto’s amazement, the couple soon started having visitors from places afar.

“Dignitaries and consuls from the Indonesian embassy in Boston and D.C. visited our restaurant,” she said, adding that some famous New Hampshire names such as Congressman Chris Pappas, state Sen. David Watters, and state Rep. Wendy Chase have eaten at the restaurant.

In 2021, the US Embassy in Jakarta named their restaurant as the top five recommended Indonesian restaurants in America in an Instagram video that featured Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.

“Yeah, we had no idea,” she said. “It was a surprise. I found out in the morning when my friend told me she saw our picture online.”

Tasya, who is the main chef at the restaurant along with Subroto, said the community in Somersworth really likes their recipes, and they have a heavy foot traffic during lunch hours from office-goers in the area who do takeout at Tasya’s.

There is something for everyone at Tasya’s Kitchen—it also has vegan options available—but for first timers, Tasya suggests sate (chicken skewers), fried rice, fried noodles, and lumpia (Indonesian spring rolls). The restaurant only sources farm-raised organic chicken, Tasya said.

“But if I ask if you like spicy, I will recommend the beef rendang,” she said. “Or if someone likes soup, I will suggest a Soto Ayam.”

One of the restaurants specialties is its behemoth “Tour of Indonesia” plate that has all of the restaurant’s popular dishes on it—beef rendang, chicken satay, chicken curry, and crispy potato, and more—all for just $31.

With a shared love of cooking, to Tasya and Subroto, serving a taste of their home in New Hampshire brings happiness.

“We enjoy cooking,” she said. “We plan to make it bigger if we can. A lot of people have started liking it and knowing it. I want to make our businesses bigger and better known.”

Author

  • Mrinali Dhembla

    Based in Manchester, Mrinali Dhembla is Granite Post's multimedia reporter. She's previously worked as deputy editor at The Keene Sentinel, and has experience writing for many national and international publications. When not doing journalism, she likes to cook food (and eat it).

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