Wheatgrass, goji berries and hemp seed are so-called superfoods. The benefits (and disadvantages) are described everywhere. But how about fishes? Did we forget about them? Fish, especially oily-rich species like mackerel, salmon and herring, are essential if you want to eat healthy, due to the presence of the fatty acid omega-3. According to scientists this ingredient is ideal to keep your brain in good shape. Check Brainfood, a book written by Dutch journalist Froukje Wattel, if you need easy-to-make recipes with oily-rich fish and other brainfoods. Not in the mood to cook? Relax, I have found you a delicious brainbite: the mackerel salad of Vis van Henry. Henry, the owner of this fair fish store, grew up in the fishing village of Spakenburg. As a boy he used to help his uncle to smoke mackerel. The smoked fish Henry sells comes from small smokehouses where they still pickle and smoke by hand. No additives. No smoke flavours, no antibiotics. His mackerel salad is based on the purest mackerel I have ever eaten. A bit of mayonnaise, some fresh capers. To be eaten with bread, preferably with pain de campagne.
Vis van Henry
Mackerel salad, 100 grams, €3.00
Spaarndammerstraat 113, West (Spaarndammerbuurt), and several markets (check site)
+31 (0) 6 1314 71 49
Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday 10am-7pm, Saturday 10pm-5pm
‘So cute. With that red coat on you resemble a dwarf.’ A what? A dwarf? Yeah, let’s buy a coat that makes me even shorter than I am. Woman, what were you thinking? Bad, bad shop-assistant! An excellent example of someone who can read the mind of his customers is Henk Jongejans, the owner of Bakhuys, a bakery and cafe extraordinaire. I was checking out the desserts and got hold of a Bakhuys ‘liefje’ (‘sweetheart’). Henk looked at me – sparkling eyes, wild hair – and said: ‘This dessert with whipped cream, a caramel sauce and bits of stroopwafel (syrup waffle) is very soft. Ideal to start your day with.’ Now we’re talking! A dessert for breakfast? Superb suggestion. I took it home, ate it the next morning and loved it. I was amazed by the silky smoothness of this pudding and its pure taste of stroopwafel. The caramel sauce is as thick as you want it to be. Made to match with the refined flavour of the bavarois. I keep coming back for more, more of this sweetheart and of Bakhuys. More of its organic bread, baked in the enormous wood fired oven, its pastry and quiches – thumbs up for the Spanish one.
Stroopwafel bavarois, one portion, €2.75
Sarphatistraat 61, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 370 48 61
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 7am-9pm, Sunday 8am-3pm
Meet Billy! He’s the cute man in the kitchen. The one who chops and stir-fries with a smile. He used to be the cook of Little Thai Prince in Chinatown, but three years ago he opened his own restaurant and takeaway: Billy Thai. It’s hugely popular and this is why: excellent food, friendly service, a cosy decor. Orchids on the windowsill, candlelight, pictures of King Bhumibol, Queen Sirikit and our royal couple on the walls. Have a seat in Billy’s living room, inhale the scent of stir-fried basil, ginger and garlic and let him spoil you with a mix of duck, ginger and mushrooms, king prawns in garlic and pepper sauce or thalee samrod, prawns, squid and fish in a spicy, sweet-and-sour sauce. Get yourself a soup too: tom yam koeng. It has all the hot (red chillies) and sour (lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal) flavours you’d expect and much more. Love the prawns, coriander leaves and mushrooms with a bite. This soup brings back happy memories of the first time I had it. Bangkok, 1996, a food stall near Khao San Road. It was hot and humid, singer-starlet Sabrina sang Boys, Boys, Boys, the soup set my senses on fire. Love at first sight.
Billy Thai Tom yam koeng, one, €6.00
Prinsengracht 358, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 330 42 20
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 4pm-11pm
The first time I visited funky Dapur Kita the spekkoek immediately got my full attention. This Dutch-Indonesian layer cake is incredibly hard to make. You have to bake the layers one by one. The thinner they are, the better the spekkoek is. The layers in front of me were ultra, ultra thin. Respect! The chef casually said that it took her more than three hours to make it. ‘I just love to bake and to eat. Within a couple of weeks I’ll visit my family in Bandung, Java. I will gain ten kilograms. At least.’ Braggin’ about gaining weight? Isn’t she lovely? And what’s even better for us – her hungry clients: she’s an all-round cook. She knows her way with sugar as well as chilli pepper. One piece of evidence is her spicy melt-in-your-mouth rendang. This famous Sumatran dish is made by simmering beef for hours in coconut milk and spices. Most Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam serve a wet version, a curry look-a-like. But at this restaurant and takeaway you’ll find a dry version, one with a much more intense taste. Combine it with white rice and spicy green beans and you have yourself a mini meal to die for.
Dapur Kita (‘Our Kitchen’) Rendang, rice and vegetables, €6.00
Elandsgracht 134, City Centre (Jordaan)
+31 (0) 6 2218 1002
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 4pm-9pm
Pamela obviously loves what she’s doing. Her parents own the acclaimed Indian restaurant Tagore. During the day Tagore is known as Heavenly Made With Love, a breakfast and lunch spot run by Pamela. She serves authentic Indian food with a twist, such as sweet Indian bread baked in a clay oven. This nan is based on the recipe of peshwari nan, bread stuffed with a combination of coconut, sugar and almonds. The differences with Pamela’s version? Less coconut and one additional ingredient: cinnamon. The result is a more refined and lighter nan. Add a touch of honey to this ‘crêpe’ if you like it (very) sweet. Drink chai with it, that lovely Indian tea with milk and spices. It may not come as a surprise that Pamela serves tandoori chicken too, but she has some variations on the ‘tandoori theme’. The bestseller is the Heavenly MWL Special, tandoori chicken, pepper, rocket and a homemade yoghurt-mint sauce served with bread or a wrap. A salad based on that chicken is on the menu too. If you’re lucky you’ll also find one of her latest inventions: a savoury tart with tandoori chicken and saag paneer, an Indian dish of spinach and cheese.
Heavenly Made With Love/Tagore Coconut-cinnamon nan, one portion, €3.50
Utrechtsestraat 128, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 624 19 31
Opening hours: Monday 4.30pm-11pm, Tuesday-Friday 9am-11pm, Saturday-Sunday 9.30am-11pm