If you have been a regular reader of this blog, you would know that one of my absolute favourite restaurants in Vancouver is the Dutch Wooden Shoe Café. It would come as no surprise, then, that one of the top reasons for my recent visit to Amsterdam was to sample Dutch specialties. And oh my, was I more than satisfied.
Historically, Indonesia was a Dutch colony. And wonderfully, the spices and the cuisine itself were incorporated from the Far East into the Dutch diet. Today, Amsterdam remains as one of the best places to get Indonesian cuisine outside of Indonesia itself.
The rijsttafel, or rice table, is one of the most famous dining experiences in a Dutch Indonesian restaurant. A Dutch invention, the grand meal consists of rice, along with dozens of small dishes. Many restaurants in Amsterdam offer the rijsttafel, and although it usually is the most expensive option on the menu, it is a great way of sampling many different traditional dishes.
There is a large range of great restaurants to choose from, from casual takeout hole-in-the-wall type joints, to white table cloth-ed fine dining establishments. I chose Tujuh Maret which was somewhere in the middle of the scale. The food was delicious and affordable.
Since I was on a tight budget, I forwent the rijsttafel and ordered some simpler dishes instead. I had had other versions of these dishes before, and it was interesting to compare. I ordered a nasi goreng (fried rice), bami goreng (fried noodles), and chicken satay (skewers). While I was used to the rice and noodle dishes having meat and vegetables in them, here they were purely side dishes. They had the perfect level of spiciness to accompany the chicken. The chicken was covered in an unbelievably richly flavoured peanut sauce, and topped with fragrant, crispy fried garlic.
If I had had more time in the city, I would have happily returned for another meal and some more unique dishes, but my dinner at Tujuh Maret was satisfying nonetheless.
French fries, chips, frites, patates, whatever you call them, crispy fried potato strips are quintessential street food common to many cities in Europe. Of course, every city puts its own twist on its version as well. Vleminckx has long been known for the best patates in Amsterdam. Conveniently located in the city centre, it dishes out fresh Flemish style (twice-fried) potatoes in traditional paper cones to tourists and locals every day. Unlike the frites I had in Brussels, patates in Amsterdam tend to be salted. I love curry, and decided to try the curry ketchup this time around. The sauce was nicely spicy and tangy, and went well with the potatoes. (It is also much more figure-friendly than the usual generous glob of mayonnaise.) While I think the frites from Maison Antoine had a better crispy, crunchy, fluffy texture, Vleminckx came in at a close second.
Another Dutch twist on patates and its Indonesian food heritage is patat oorlog or “war fries.” Crispy hot frites are topped with mayonnaise, peanut satay sauce, and sometimes ketchup or, in my case, onions. I knew I had to hunt it down after Lonely Planet named it one of the most delicious street foods in the world. I happily ran across a stand selling patat oorlog at the Waterlooplein market, just around the corner from the Rembrandthuis. While it sounds a little strange, I highly recommend giving it a try. It is now one of my favourite frites versions.
Haring-Raw HerringI sampled this traditional Amsterdam snack at the famous Albert Cuypmarkt in the name of foodie research. And in all honesty, it was not the most delicious item I had on my trip. The texture is smooth and a little chewy, much like sashimi, only fishier. You could get them in a sandwich form (a broodje), or alone with pickles and raw onion (thank goodness for chewing gum...) The bread may make it a little more palatable, and it really is not as unpleasant as it sounds. I just thought there were plenty of other wonderfully delicious things to eat. If you're feeling adventurous though, do give it a try!
Stay tuned for the sweet edition, including Dutch pancakes, apple pie, and more!
Where to Eat:
1017 VJ Amsterdam, Nederland
Tempo Doeloe (also great Indonesian, fine dining setting, next door to Tujuh Maret)
1017 VJ Amsterdam, Nederland
Voetboogsteeg 33, 1012 XN Amsterdam
Albert Cuypstraat 67 HS
1072 CN Amsterdam, Nederland
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