What’s not to like about Urban Cacao? This chocolate factory and shop in one has a cool interior and catchy chocolate art. The artist in residence is Hans Mekking, a chocolatier, patissier and glacier who used to be in charge of the chocolate factory of Australian and was trained at the renowned Huize van Wely. His collection is based on Swiss, Belgium and German quality cacao and consists of macarons, huge chocolate-vanilla cookies, cheese-chocolate palmiers and mud cakes – brownie ganache and blondie caramel ganache. Hans’ chocolates are equally tempting. Which flavours he creates depends on the season, his mood and the ‘catch of the day’. For sure you’ll find a coffee ganache. If you’re really lucky you will find the one I had lately: the headfirst coffee ganache, a bonbonwith a creamy mix of chocolate and coffee from Papua New Guinea. The men from Headfirst Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop around the corner, delivered the beans for this refined, almost fruity coffee. Keep in mind that opposites attract. So do combine the soft ganache with a pecan-walnut florentine, a chocolate with body (very ‘nutty’ flavour) and a bite. Drink an organic and fair espresso with it. That’s the way Hans likes it.
Headfirst coffee ganache and pecan-walnut Florentine, box with 6 pieces, €4.50
Rozengracht 200, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 412 99 66
Opening hours: Monday noon-7pm, Tuesday-Friday 10am-7pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday noon-6pm
Go West if it’s great chicken satay that you’re after. Picture chunks of succulent chicken dressed in a great peanut sauce, one with chilli peppers and bits of peanut. All this and much more is zu haben at Warung SuriKitchen where the chef prepares superb Surinamese-Javanese dishes. On the menu sopropo (bitter melon) with salted meat and chicken with antroewa (African eggplant) mingle with Javanese chicken soup and spekkoek (‘thousand layer cake’). If you happen to notice some spring rolls, catch as many as you can. The chef only makes these snacks with chicken and kousenband (asparagus beans) once a week and she’s definitely not into mass production. It’s often crowded at this small place so you might have to wait a while before your order is ready. Chill while your soul food is being made. Check out the meals on the dinner table in the middle. Watch some television. Or just relax on the windowsill with some worn out gossip magazines and ginger beer or homemade dawet, a delicious pink coconut drink.
Chicken Satay, one portion (3 sticks), €3.00
Tweede Nassaustraat 38, West (Westerpark)
+31 (0) 20 475 10 21
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday 3pm-10pm
According to Dutch Indonesians it’s not so much about who you are, but all about what you eat. Well, kind of. My parents taught me that a proper Dutch partner should love rice, even in his soup. He must prefere emping (chips of the bitter melindjo nut) to potato chips and crave for spicy food all day round. Mat, my man, complies with all that and much more. He loves durian, an exotic fruit that ‘smells like hell, but tastes like heaven’, and can handle peteh. This bean is also known as twisted cluster bean, smelly bean or stink bean. It’s not as bad as eating raw garlic, but eating peteh will definitely blow the freshness of your breath away. Not just for one day. But for up to three days. So plan your peteh feast carefully. Now some good news: this green creature is very nutritious (proteins) and healthy. It’s used to fight high blood pressure and depression. Peteh is an acquired taste. It has a mild bitterness to it. The bean goes well with dishes that are both spicy and somewhat sweet. An excellent example is the ikan peteh of Toko Joyce, an Indonesian takeaway with some tables. A portion of this baked mackerel, some rice. Let’s have lunch!
Toko Joyce Ikan peteh, a whole fish, around €7.50
Nieuwmarkt 38, Centre (Chinatown). Check the site for other branches
+31 (0) 20 427 90 91
Opening hours: Monday 4pm-8pm, Tuesday-Saturday 11am-8pm, Sunday 1pm-8pm
Simple ingredients, superb taste: the tarta de Santiago of Pacomer! This refined, soft and fruity pie is made from almonds, eggs, lemon zest, sugar and (some) cinnamon. The tarta is named after the apostle Saint James a.k.a. Santiago. You’ll find it in every bakery of Santiago de Compostela, the city where Santiago’s relics are believed to be buried. This city marks the end of the Way of St. James, the famous pilgrimage. Francisco, the owner of Pacomer, buys this pie (and his bread, pan Gallego) at ‘the best bakery of Santiago’. Madrileño Francisco travels around Spain to find culinary gems for his cosy shop near the Albert Cuyp market. ‘Chorizo from León, queso manchego de LaMancha, sobrassada, a sausage born onthe isle ofMallorca. Finding good food is my passion.’ That explains why he is nicknamed Paco, derived from para comer, Spanish for ‘ready to eat’. He does some good cooking himself too. Paco sells homemade tapas and meals. His signature dish, paella, is served on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Try a portion of this rice dish with seafood at home or in the shop.
Pacomer Traiteur Tarta de Santiago, one piece, €2.50
Gerard Doustraat 66, Zuid (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 20 471 13 23
Opening hours: Monday noon-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm