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
My aunt Evie knows how to throw a great party. As a kid I made sure I never missed one. You could play, chat or whatever you felt like doing. Partygoers only had one obligation: to drink and eat as much as you could. She always served risolles, Dutch-Indonesian macaroni, cheese sticks and daging blado, a quite spicy beef dish from Manado, the Indonesian city where she was born. A couple of weeks I had a déjà-vu at lovely Bersama, a new Indonesian shop/takeaway/mini restaurant. Behind the counter I saw a look-a-like of my aunt’s daging blado, only without the fried potatoes – better from a ‘carb’s point of view’. I tried it and, man, did I order a winner: slightly dry beef, very well seasoned with garlic, onions, ginger and chilli peppers. And guess what? The cook is from Manado just like my aunt! Love the way he cooks. Try also the sticky rice filled with minced chicken or the gado gado, vegetables with peanut sauce, preferably eaten with a portion of chicken satay or the gently spiced Javanese beef balls. If you’re lucky you’ll find the small flower-shaped steamed pandan cakes with grated coconut on top too: very pretty, so exotic. Great to share with your darling(s).
Toko Bersama Daging blado, 100 g €2.10
Bilderdijkstraat 116, West
+31 (0) 20 233 23 81
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday noon-9pm
Since the opening of World of Food it’s easy to eat your way around the globe. This brand new food court in a former garage boasts food stalls of Asian, African, South-American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern entrepreneurs. It’s situated in Amsterdam’s most multicultural area, away from the tourists. The energy and enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs is very uplifting. Say ‘hi’ to the adorable Nadine (Stick-Up Indofood) and sassy Yvette (Yvette’s Kitchen). Both have been living in the south-eastern part of Amsterdam for years and are determined to show everybody how beautiful this area is. ‘Their’ food court is a unique, relaxed, no-nonsense kind of place that deserves millions of visitors. Grab some Johnny cakes and have a beer. Mingle with some families and check where their kids bought their coconut ice cream. Discover lesser-known cuisines (Liberian, Armenian) or introduce your loved one to something special. I made my man fell in love with the roedjak oelek of Djadjan: a spicy – upon request very spicy – sweet-sour salad with fruits (apple, mango, star fruit), peanuts, chilli, tamarind and palm sugar syrup. Hasti, the Indonesian owner of Djadjan, will soon be serving other versions of roedjak, such as one with grated fruits, and new authentic Indonesian dishes. A lady to watch.
World of Food: Djadjan
Roejak oelek, €5.00
Develstein 100, South-East
+31 (0) 6 51 51 89 47
Opening hours of World of Food: Monday-Thursday 8am-10pm, Friday-Saturday 8am-midnight, Sunday: 10am-10pm
The Czaar Peterstraat is a playground for treasure hunters. Small specialized shops in abundance, new ones popping up frequently. One of the latest being Dreamboat, a stylish yet groovy fashion spot for cosmopolitan city dwellers. Worscht is another treasure trove, one that is filled with sausages and ‘accessories’: Czaar Peter beer, bread, mustard and pickles. The sausages in stock are organic and made in a traditional way. Dried sausages, smoked sausages, sandwich sausages, aperitif sausages. Sausages with red wine or walnut, mortadella, boudin noir. It’s easily to get lost in this mighty meat jungle. So why don’t you focus on the sausage I traced recently? A dried pork sausage based on the recipe of fa chong, a classic Chinese sausage! Fa chong is often used for noodle and rice dishes, but the version of quality butcher Spijkerman (Akkrum, Friesland) is made to pair with your pre-dinner drinks. It’s a rather spicy devil; the meat is blended with Madame Jeanette pepper. To soothe your senses you may want to eat it with gherkins or Amsterdam onions.
Elephants on the wall, on place mats and on bottles of Thai beer (Chang). Guess what’s the name of this restaurant and takeaway? At classy White Elephant you’ll find dishes that sound like songs. Sing after me: pet pa loo, duck legs braised with star anise, cinnamon and muscat root. This is one of the city’s most creative and innovative Thai restaurant. Starting your dinner with mieng kham is a must: leaves filled with Thai spices, dried shrimps and peanuts. The menu includes some usual suspects, but at White Elephant they are made with a twist. Of course there are fish cookies, but here they are served with a ‘hint of chicken’ and a wrapped quail egg. Yes, the cooks prepare som tam, the famous green papaya salad. But they make this bloody spicy salad/side dish with crushed cashew nuts instead of peanuts and fresh shrimps instead of dried ones. On top of that they add the perfect blend of garlic, chilli peppers, lemon juice and kousenband (asparagus beans). Trust me, better than this you won’t find in town.
White Elephant Som tam (green papaya salad), one portion, €18.70
Van Woustraat 3, South (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 20 679 55 56
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday as of 5pm, kitchen closes at 10pm
Don’t be fooled by the innocent looks of this flammkuchen. The thin crust of this Alsatian ‘pizza’ is covered with crème fraiche. So far so good, you might think. Yes, sure. But wait till you get to the tomato sauce. Ai, ai, caramba, who let the chilli peppers out? Hot, hot, hot. Sooo good. And there’s more devilish good stuff: bits of juicy pork with some fat and a full, slightly sweet taste. This pork neck shouts quality. It’s organic and comes from the region of Baambrugge, a village close to Amsterdam. My favourite flammkuchen is not to be missed for lunch and also recommended for dinner – as a starter, that is, well, at least in my case. Any time is a good time to visit restaurant and bar The Lobby. Love the French fish soup with grilled catfish for lunch too. For dinner put your hands up for the farm fowl with smoked bacon. The American pancakes, maple syrup and blueberries make waking up less painful. All this is served by welcoming and funny employees. They have cool looks, but lack the cool (arrogant) attitude. Yes!
The Lobby, situated in Hotel V
Flammkuchen (Alsatian pizza) with spicy pork, one, €10.50
Nes 49, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 758 52 75
Opening hours: Monday -Sunday 7am-1am
Even a brief encounter with Tamara Tantico will make your day. She wears her own creations: funky outfits made of sarongs and fabrics in vibrant colours. Tamara’s smile gives away a positive attitude towards life. Her curriculum vitae shows that she’s practical too. Trained as a fashion designer at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, she works as a stylist and a visual artist. On one fine day she decided to turn her love for cooking into another source of income; her company De Lachende Pinda (The Smiling Peanut) was born. Tamara – half Dutch, half Dutch Indonesian – sells her organic Indo soul food on food markets all over The Netherlands. I met her on The NeighbourFood Market in Amsterdam-West where she offered me her signature dish: a Surinamese peanut soup with a Dutch-Indonesian twist of lemon grass, ginger, rawit (small red chili peppers) and, if requested, cilantro. Tasty, exotic, spicy. She blew me away with it. Tamara also serves this soup as a kick-off for the private dinners she organizes in her atelier in Amsterdam – 10 persons max. Can’t get enough of the peanut theme? Try her peanut butter with raisins and coconut. Loving this sweet, surprisingly creamy butter is well, uh, peanuts.
De Lachende Pinda
Peanut soup, half a liter, €8.50
NeighbourFood Market (Amsterdam-West) and other food markets in The Netherlands. Check her FB-page to check-out where and when.
+31 (0) 6 5195 93 06
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
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