Cookie of My Youth

I grew up in Alphen aan den Rijn, a city near university city Leiden. We lived close to a quarter inhabited by Moluccans. My Dutch-Indonesian father went there often to meet friends. Once a year he was sent on a mission: obtaining three boxes filled with kue cucur, a cookie made of fried rice flour mixed with palm sugar. Thick in the middle, thin at the edges. A snack with the looks of an UFO. Not exactly the most beautiful cookie on earth, but its taste and smell is divine, especially when it’s warm: exotic cinnamon flavor. The fact that it wasn’t available in shops, but could only be bought ‘illegally’ at the home of an old Moluccan lady added to the flavour of the kue cucur. Last week I found out that one of my favorite takeaways and restaurants, Toko Bandung, was selling THE cookie of my youth. I stared for minutes at the FB-picture where I saw three cookies in a row with a bit of liquid gula djawa on top. Saturday I was reunited with my ‘elementary school sweet hearts’. A trip down memory lane. A real good one.

Toko Bandung
Kue cucur, €1.65
Pieter Callandlaan 333-335, West (Osdorp)
+31 (0) 20 619 91 03
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am-7pm, Saturday 9am-5pm


The Coconut Effect

Coconut in your Thai chicken soup, grated coconut in your dessert, on your pancake or in your pie. It’s always a good time to eat coconut. Coconut is present in most of the recipes of my Dutch-Indonesian mother, including the one of her super delicious ajam opor, chicken in a velvety coconut sauce. At home we called this ingredient by it’s proper Dutch-Indonesian name: klapper. Just like the owner of Stadsbakkerij Jongejans does: he sells a klappertaart to die for. The mere sound of the word ‘klapper’ takes me on a lovely trip down memory lane and makes me want to fly to the world’s most exotic places on earth right away. For the ultimate tropical experience I suggest you to buy this pie together with some kippasteitjes (Surinamese chicken pies). Don’t be fooled by the Dutch looks of this bakery. Jongejans has an exotic soul; the biggest branch of this small chain of bakeries is situated in the Bijlmer, Amsterdam’s most colourful neighbourhood. The one at the Haarlemmerstraat is perfect to get yourself some good stuff before taking the train at central station. Tell the friendly ladies there I said ‘hi’.

Stadsbakkerij Jongejans
Klappertaart, one, €5.00
Haarlemmerstraat 4, City Centre (Haarlemmerbuurt). Check the site for other branches
+31 (0) 20 624 76 11
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 7am-6pm, Saturday 7am-5pm, Sunday 10am-4pm

This Is Not a Fake Bun

Some weeks ago I was in Paris and had lunch at the boutique of restaurant yam T’cha run by Michelin-starred chef Adeline Grattard. Both the restaurant and the boutique are known for serving irresistibly light balls of goodness: steamed buns with amazing fillings, such as stilton and amarena cherries, smoked tofu and king prawns and chives. Back home I kept on raving about these amazing soft buns until my Dutch-Indonesian mother told me to shut-up. ‘The French have ruined our recipe. Our bapao should be filled with minced pork.’ The funny thing is that she/Dutch-Indonesians did not invent these buns. They stole it from the Chinese and changed it. Next time I will bring her the real deal, a char siu bao, bought by Toko Het Oosten. This shop sells dumplings, filled lotus leaves, pig’s ears, chicken feet and bao’s. The bao with barbecued pork will make her complain about the kind of pork used. I will make her stop talking this time. ‘Dear mum, this bao is the original. You’re just a copy cat.’

Toko Het Oosten
Char siu bao, one piece, €1.10
Zeedijk 147, City Centre (Chinatown)
+31 (0) 20 421 70 18
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm

Cinnamon Sin

Yesterday I had my first babka. This sweet yeast cake is linked to the (Polish) Christian tradition, but there’s also a Jewish version. The latter is made from a doubled and twisted length of yeast dough containing cinnamon and/or chocolate. Mine was made by a lovely lady from Israel. She bakes the cake at her home, but intends to open her own shop. Until that big day you have to order your babka by phone and pick it up yourself. But first of all: make up your mind. Will you be having one with chocolate, halva, speculoos or cinnamon? I choose a cinnamon babka. The moment she opened the door, I smelt the delightful scent of cinnamon and noticed that my babka came straight out of the oven. At home I had a slice with a cup of coffee and had to stop myself from eating the whole loaf. Such a perfectly sweetened and somewhat sticky cake, light and dense at the same time. Dear babka, where have you been the rest of my life?

Babka Amsterdam
Babka with cinnamon, one loaf, € 10.00
South (De Pijp), no shop (yet)/order by phone
+31 (0) 6 21 16 97 07

Chicken Little

If choosing is not your cup of tea, you will have a hard time at Temakery. This new takeaway and ‘fast casual restaurant’ is specialised in the latest healthy food trend around: bowls, wraps and hand rolls with an explosion of vitamins. Choose your base of quinoa, brown or white rice and fill it up with fish, tofu or chicken. Add your preferred veggies and healthy fats and top it off with your favourite sauce and crunchy stuff. In front of me an excellent sushi wrap of white rice was made, including tuna, seaweed, crab, avocado, a mango dressing and sesame. Loved it. I bet normal people could lunch or even dine on such a wrap, well not me. Luckily Temakery has some side dishes to choose from, one of them being a bit naughty – well, according to FIT-girls that is. I am talking about the fried Korean chicken wings: covered in a somewhat spicy sauce and sprinkled with cilantro and crushed peanuts. Meat so tender that even your toothless grandparents could eat it. For sure that naughty is da bomb!

Korean chicken wings, one portion, € 5.00
Ferdinand Bolstraat 128, South (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 6 24 13 21 45
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 11.30am-9pm

Veggie Power

The back of Amsterdam Central Station has transformed into a serious food Mecca. Longing for quality éclairs, organic raspberry clafoutis or scallops? This station has it and much more. Check all the Asian stuff you can eat here, ranging from sushi and ramen dishes to pho, the Vietnamese national soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs and meat, usually beef or chicken. I had a version with chicken broth, tofu and pak choi at the latest addition to CS: Sàigon Caphê. Glad I did, since I had a cold and needed something to give me energy. Of course nothing can beat a Javanese chicken soup for that purpose, but this pho chay really did a good job. I was ready to run up and down the platform stairs after eating it. But instead of doing that I checked the menu minutely. Making my mind up for my next visit. For sure I will order this pho again, together with skewers with grilled chicken and lemon grass and salad rolls with pork and shrimp. At this station waiting is a bless!

Sàigon Caphê
Pho chay, one portion, € 11.50
De Ruijterkade 44a, City Centre. Other branches: see website
+31 (0) 20 489 79 18
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday noon-11pm

Looking for Mr. Banana

Fork, spoon? Attack! Impossible to eat decently, but this tartelette is worth the effort and the dirty fingers. The crispy bottom is like a cup, one containing a divine ‘soup’ of cream, caramel and last but not least thin slices of banana. Liquid sweetness at its finest and most irresistible. This banoffee pie is made by the cook of Sticky Fingers and is completely organic, just like the other pastry and savoury pies of this new ‘Eco Patisserie’ of the Conscious Hotel. Ecological Sticky Fingers is as girly as it gets: wooden chairs and tables, magazines, plants and a touch of pink. Check the bar stools, the wall behind the counter and the raspberry tartelette. Twenty-something ladies chatting and gossiping, working and bragging about their travel plans – ‘Thai islands are so last season, I am into Cambodian ones’. Some twenty-something men zipping cappuccino and latte macchiato from fair chain label Moyee. A no-frills place for a serious moment of Zen while being at one of the busiest streets in town: Overtoom/Amstelveenseweg.

Sticky Fingers
Banoffee tartelette, one, € 3.50
Amstelveenseweg 3, West/Zuid
+31 (0) 20 820 33 32
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 7am-6pm

Live and Let Fry

My Dutch-Indonesian mother thinks that all Asian dishes have to be made according to her recipe. The first time I bought her a portion of pad thai, she was amazed. ‘Crushed peanuts on top of fried noodles is a no-go. Lime? It’s a meal, not a cocktail.’ The fact that there are more ways to fry noodles than Melania Trump has dresses and that this was just the way this typical Thai dish should be made, didn’t seem to convince her. ‘It’s not correct. It should be made with meat or shrimp, garlic, soy sauce, spring onions and celery.’ Well mum, in this case I don’t think less is more. I just love the rich noodles of Thai restaurant/takeaway Mae Somjai. So good that the cooks combine shrimps, tofu, bean sprouts, greens, peanuts and lime. Have a seat in this pretty basic restaurant and see how the ladies ‘walk the wok’: quick, efficient and with great results. It reminded me of a small restaurant in Ko Lanta serving only one pad thai. While the mother was cooking, the youngest kid was sipping juice out of a coconut. Get the picture?

Mae Somjaj
Pad thai with shrimp, one, € 13.50
Koningsstraat 25, City Centre (Chinatown)
+31 (0) 6 51 17 50 49

My Beautiful Galette

Brittany is one of Europe’s finest coastal regions: rocks in numerous formations and colours, dramatic seascapes, quaint villages. On top of all that the food of les Bretons is very worthwhile. Superb shellfish – crab, scallops, lobster – seductive pastry and one-of-a-kind pancakes. Not the thick buttery ones the Dutch tend to make, but thin sweet (crêpes) and savoury ones (galettes) with a refined taste. At newly opened Cocotte by Hexagone you can eat copies of these Breton delicacies, including kouign amann, a rich Breton butter cake. Cocotte is located in the heart of the city and is as cute as you want your crêperie Bretonne to be: wooden tables, rotan chairs, flowers, blue-white tableware. Hartstikke gezellig (very cosy) real ‘girly’ and undeniably French. No wonder with French owners and a French cook, all with roots in Brittany. While listening to the marriage plans of my neighbours, two twenty-somethings with Chanel-bags, I had a galette to remember. One made from gluten free buckwheat flour with roasted hazelnuts, camembert and honey to soften the mildly strong taste of the cheese. Continue the oh-là-là feeling by ordering a crêpe with rose petals or, even better, a piece of tarte tatin with juicy caramelized apples on a crunchy butter biscuit.

Cocotte by Hexagone
Galette with camembert, one, € 12.25 (small salad included)
Spuistraat 127, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 737 20 15
Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday 9am-7pm, Friday-Saturday 9am-10pm

Green Peace

Ever heard of matcha? Well, it’s ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea. Hong Tong Wu and his sister Yiemie, the owners of Tea’s Delight, know how to treat this ingredient right. They put it in their ice cream, cookies and pancake, one topped with a slice of apple – fresh, slightly sour – and perfectly green cream. Eating this pancake may be a (tiny) sin, but it make’s you feel super zen in return. Not only since it’s delicious, but also because of the well balanced nature of this place. On the lower ground floor, you’ll find the dark yin space, including light teaware made of glass and porcelain. Upstairs you’ll find the lighter yang space with dark tea pots on the floor. Add to all this the soft voices of the sweet owners who patiently tell you all about the origins of their loose tea leaves and you’ll float to another world. To China where most of their tea comes from. Or to Taiwan where their fabulous Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea is born.

Tea’s Delight
Green tea pancake, one, €3.50
Kinkerstraat 58, West
+31 (0) 20 616 17 49
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10.30am-6.30pm