Chicken in a Suit

B’stilla is the masterpiece of the Moroccan cuisine. This pie is filled with pigeon, fish or chicken, almonds and saffron. It is covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon. The unexpected blend of sweet and salty flavours and smooth and crispy textures makes it extraordinary and very memorable. I ate it for the first time in the beautiful town of Fez (or Fes), about ten years ago. It took me ages to find an Amsterdam b’stilla that could match the original version. I didn’t expect to find it within walking distance of my house. Certainly not at the place that has the looks of ‘just another cafeteria’. Well, looks can be pretty deceiving. Because at Patisserie Fes I found THE ONE. Super thin layers of dough, a whole lot of aromatic shredded chicken inside and a mix of sugar and cinnamon on top. Such a rich and unique ‘snack’. To be eaten as a starter or a main dish, with a salad including dates or figs as a side dish.

Fes Patisserie
B’stilla with chicken, € 3.00
De Clercqstraat 113H, West
+31 (0)20 233 0734
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 7am-8pm

 

Dark Darling Dough

Ugga is the ultimate addition to the Amsterdam pastry scene. This weekend I ate my first rugalach at this urban bakery full of Israeli pastries. Rugalach is a croissant look-a-like but with even softer dough than this French dude. It was probably invented in eastern Europa and is highly popular in Israel. A rugalach is often made of cream cheese dough, but at fancy places brioche dough is used. Adva Rachamim, the owner of Ugga, is originally from Tel Aviv and was trained at The French Pastry School in Chicago. She uses ‘all kind of dough’ for her small rugalach and fills these cookies with a generous portion of chocolate. Very easy on the eye and in the mouth. It’s like eating bread bonbons. Best tried with a strong black coffee, preferably in Ugga’s comfortable living room, watching the former party chef of Mr. Porter do her thing. Check out all the babkas on display. Aren’t they gorgeous? I fell in love with the lemon-ricotta-raisins one. How about you? An unique place owned by a passionate owner who is determined to make her clients happy by offering the best of the best. Rugalach, babkas, focaccia and burekas (filled pastries of a thin flaky dough) are made on a daily basis. On Friday it’s time for fresh challahs (braided bread).

Ugga
Rugalach, €1.50
Gerard Doustraat 103A, South (De Pijp)
+31 (0)20 753 1871
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-7pm

 

 

Mon Petit Pain

A pain au chocolat is not your average bread roll. Just like a pain au raisin, chausson aux pommes (apple turnover) and a croissant it’s a member of the large family of viennoiseries. These baked goods are made from a yeast-leavened dough in a manner similar to bread, or from puff pastry, but with added ingredients (particularly eggs, butter, milk, cream and sugar) giving them a richer, sweeter character, approaching that of pastry. The dough is often laminated. This type of dough was invented by a pastry chef from Vienna and not one from Paris or any other French city. However the French did succeed in bringing this dough to perfection. Proof thereof I found once again when I was in Paris earlier this month and bough a super croissant aux amandes and pain au chocolat at Le Pétrin Médiéval (31 rue Henri Monnier). In Amsterdam I buy my pain au chocolat at bakery Westerbos, my favorite bakery in Amsterdam-West: service with a smile, even when customers are cueing on Saturday mornings, excellent bread (try the Hugo) and pastry. The pain au chocolat of Westerbos has almonds on top for a crunchy effect, inside you’ll find mini bars of black chocolate. The pastry is light as a feather and somewhat sweet. A chérie to cherish!

Westerbos
Pain au chocolat, €1.90
Hugo de Grootplein 4, West (Westerpark)
+31 (0)20 684 5512
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 7.30am-6pm, Saturday 7.30am-4pm

Wraptastic

My friend Linda could star in a Nike commercial. It only takes her a couple of minutes to decide whether or not she likes something. If so, she acts. She’s all about ‘just do it’. Some years ago she visited a lunch spot during the weekend. By Monday she decided that she wanted to have one herself. By the end of the weekend she rented a place in the Amsterdam city centre and started Lef, Dutch for courage, boldness. After a couple of years she reinvented herself and pursued a new career as content manager. Bye bye Lef, hello The Lebanese Sajeria! This family-run eatery gets its name from the saj, a traditional dome-shaped griddle used in Lebanon to bake manoushe, a freshly baked flatbread served with lovely toppings, such as hummus and beef. To me the ultimate manoushe is the one with halloumi cheese, fresh mint, tomatoes, cucumbers and zaatar, a mix of dried wild thyme, sumac (a tangy, lemony spice) and roasted sesame seeds. The perfect treat after/in between shopping in the surrounding neighborhood of The Nine Streets.

The Lebanese Sajeria
Manoushe with halloumi cheese and zaatar, €7.00
Wijde Heisteeg 1, City Centre
+31 (0)20 737 3386
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 11.30am-7.30pm

Fusion Fish

Post-it notes are a great invention and so is a paperclip, but no creation is more brilliant than a tartar-ia. A what? A place where you are treated to different tastes and seizes of a steak tartare! The only tartar-ia of Amsterdam (or the world) is to be found at Wolf Atelier, located in a beautiful glass building that rests on a 1920 industrial railroad-bridge near Central Station. Before opening this place the Austrian owner, Michael Wolf, gained experience at renowned restaurants such as Oud Sluis in Sluis and Villa Joya in Albufeira. This Austrian chef knows how to please his guests by using the freshest product for innovative dishes. The tartar-ia is one of the latest additions to the lunch menu. I had the best tuna dish around, served by a cute and attentive waiter who seemed to like the fish as much as I did: chopped tuna mixed with a vinaigrette of yuzu (Japanese citrus) and soy sauce, wasabi nuts, radish and jalapeño mayonnaise on top. Soft, crunchy, creamy, sour, sweet, spicy. Wow, talking about a fusion fish that will blow your mind!

Wolf Atelier
Tuna tartare, €16.50 (150 gr)
Westerdoksplein 20, City Centre
+31 (0)20 344 6428
Opening hours lunch: Monday-Saturday noon-5pm
Opening hours dinner: Monday-Saturday 6pm-1am

 

Ladies in Red

Every time I visit the Kanarie Club I order the same dish. Look at this picture. Can you blame me? These juicy red heads sprinkled with almonds are floating on a lake of ricotta, situated on top of wentelteefjes, the Dutch version of French toast, drenched in lavender syrup. The taste of this dish is as good as its looks. The pretty cool interior and happy vibes of the club adding to the ultimate ‘Zen feeling’. This club for ‘free minded birds’ is owned by Tsibo Lin, Chong Chu, Zing-Kyn Cheung en Rakish Gangapersad, the founding fathers of the neighbouring Foodhallen If you can’t stand the heat of this food market anymore, do visit this club. It’s an ideal spot to have a drink or to dine before going to the movies at the Filmhallen. You need to get some work done? Relaxed free work places in abundance, the club even has some lockers to leave your laptop while you walk around. An oasis amidst one the most vibrant quarters of Amsterdam.

Kanarie Club
Wentelteefjes with ricotta and strawberries, €7.50
Bellamyplein 51, West
+31 (0) 20 218 17 75
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 8.30am-11pm, Friday 8.30am-2.30am, Saturday9.30am-2.30am, Sunday 9.30am-11pm

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 at 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