On my first holiday ever I went to Spain with my mum. We got addicted to horchata (tigernut milk) and discovered calamares a la romana (deep fried squid). These bites were not always to the liking of my mother. If they sucked, she said ‘adoe’ (similar to OMG), rolled her eyes, shook her head and looked traumatized. I found that terribly embarrassing. Why couldn’t she pretend she was normal? We were talking food here, not politics. Looking back I realize this Dutch-Indonesian lady wasn’t exaggerating. We did had some pretty awful versions. Too greasy, too salty, too rubbery and/or with a crust that was way too thick. Making the perfect calamares is an art and the cooks of Royalvis are fish Picasso’s. This Amsterdam fish store equals a covered mini fish market with some tables. The freshest fish and seafood are bathing in crushed ice: anchovies, oysters, tiger prawns, lobster and squid. If you like what you see, just order it. Upon requested the cooks will grill or fry it on the spot. Life is good when you eat the fried squid: juicy with a crunchy crust, finely chopped parsley and a spice mix of powdered paprika. Squeeze the lemon, add some harissa (a North African chilli paste) and just be.
Royalvis & Traiteur
Calamares a la romana, one portion, €3.50
Van der Pekstraat 88-90 H, North
+31 (0) 6 2194 09 90
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday-Monday noon-8pm
(different opening hours from July-August)
In France I discovered the sensation of window shopping. French butchers, for example, are often hard to ignore. My favourite ones don’t just show superb meat, but have much more on display: mille-feuilles d’agneau (layers of puff pastry with lamb), velvety duck mousse, pistachio pâté en croûte and handsome meals. In Amsterdam you’ll find a museum like this in the Utrechtsestraat: Slagerij De Leeuw. A household name since 1966 and the place to go if you long for poulet de Bresse, lamb meat of the Dutch island of Texel and ‘all things wagyu’. Dried sausages, wagyu hamburgers and a salad based on this exclusive Japanese beef. Passing by without checking out the confit de canard or the sauerkraut Alsace-style is impossible. Focus on the Thai meatballs if you need a kick-off for a food fest: minced quality beef seasoned with chopped lemongrass, ginger, garlic and coriander. These old skool yet exotic beauties come with a mildly spiced chilli sauce. If you want some background information on these balls or any other product of De Leeuw, do ask. The staff is extremely helpful, friendly and passionate. Another asset of this butcher extraordinaire.
Slagerij De Leeuw
Thai meatballs, one, about €1.50
Utrechtsestraat 92, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 623 02 35
Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 8am-5pm
I love the taste of gula djawa in the morning. This Javanese palm sugar with a deep brown colour tastes a bit like caramel, but is not as sweet as granulated sugar. One of my favourite breakfasts is ketan unti: sticky coconut rice with a topping of melted gula djawa and grated coconut. But what I like even more is (kue) dadar gulung: coconut pancakes made with a paste or juice of daun pandan, leaves of the aromatic pandanus plant. These green pancakes are filled with gula djawa and grated coconut. Sari Citra’s pancakes are not too thick and not too thin, but just perfect. This small Indonesian restaurant and takeaway has one of the best snack counters in town. Next to the snack section starts the meal area. Behind the display window you’ll find one ‘lost soul’: a jug of tjendol, a mix of cold coconut milk and gula djawa. This is one of the loveliest drinks on earth. Refreshing in summer and spring, soothing in winter and fall.
Kue dadar gulung, one, €1.70
Ferdinand Bolstraat 52, South (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 20 675 41 02
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 2pm-9pm, Sunday 3pm-9pm
Looking for something nice and easy to go with your favourite Pinot Gris or Chablis? Don’t look any further. Head for the Albert Cuyp market and stop at the fish stall or fish shop of the Steur brothers: Vishandel Albert Cuyp. Amongst the super fresh fish and tempting fruits de mer you’ll find Mr(s) Right: a package of three quiches filled with chunks of cod and salmon, leek and cheese. Homemade stuff with a tasty and firm crust – not the soggy one bad cooks always end up with. These quiches are almost prêt à manger. It only takes fifteen minutes in an oven at 180 degree Celsius to get you and your wine ready to roll. After you have confiscated your quiches, do relax and explore the market. Check out the impressive selection of cheese, olives, nuts and fruits that’s for sale. Apart from the food there’s something else that explains the X-factor of this place: the quirky humour of the vendors. A friend of mine moved to Amsterdam years ago. On her first day she went to ‘De Cuyp’ and bought two cucumbers. The vendor looked at her, smiled and said: ‘Have fun tonight, schat (darling).’ Welcome to Amsterdam!
Vishandel Albert Cuyp
Fish quiches, one package (3), €3.50
Albert Cuypstraat 155 (fish stall and fish shop), South (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 20 845 67 72
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-5pm