Bon Bon Bun

I had my first bun ever in Paris, the European capital of Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian food. That encounter caused a coup de foudre. Who wouldn’t fall for this vermicelli rice noodle salad with cucumber, bean sprouts, pickled carrot and daikon, coriander, crushed peanuts, a sweet-sour fish sauce dressing and spring rolls on top? Why wasn’t the whole world eating this fresh, light dish of multiple tastes? During my trip to Vietnam five years later I conquered one bun a day and was wondering why good Vietnamese was unavailable back home. Luckily the Amsterdam food scene has changed over the years and has some great Vietnamese options now. My favorite bun eatery and takeaway is Pho 91: vibrant, cool, international and welcoming. The cooks buy their ingredients at the market on their doorstep. Most of their tasty (organic) dishes are gluten, egg and dairy free. The signature dish is the uplifting beef-noodle soup. The fried chicken wings drizzled with a caramelized sauce are winners. But please do ask yourself: ‘Did I have a bun today?’ If not, score one with pork spring rolls, fish cakes, beef, chicken or tofu.

Pho 91
Bun cha gio, one portion, €12.50
Albert Cuypstraat 91, South (De Pijp)
+31 (0) 20 752 68 80
Opening hours: Tuesday-Thursday 5.30pm-10pm, Friday-Sunday noon-10pm

Gentle is this Rice

Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and flavours: Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Thai. This diversity is reflected in the menu of the best Malaysian restaurant in town: Nyonya. Hainanese chicken rice, roti canai, an Indian-influenced type of pancake served with curry sauce, and fried rice Pattaya-style are all served to the hungry – mostly Asian – crowd. The national dish of Malaysia, nasi lemak, resembles my favourite Indonesian rice dish: nasi uduk, mildly spiced coconut rice. The Malaysian version is as gentle as its Indonesian equivalent. It is served with sweet-and-sour vegetables, tiny fried fishes, mighty crispy chicken wings and a bit of Nyonya’s famous home-made sambal belachan, a spicy relish based on trassi, a shrimp paste with a peculiar smell. It takes the sweet, hard-working couple that runs this place hours to make this chilli paste. For one bit of sambal, the two have to crush kilo’s of chilli’s. They work in a kitchen where most people would get claustrophobic. The superb quality of their food proves that you don’t need a huge high-tech kitchen to shine. No skills, no glory.

Nyonya
Nasi lemak, one portion, €12.00
Kloveniersburgwal 38, Centre (Chinatown)
+31 (0) 20 422 24 47
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 1pm-9.46pm (kitchen closes at 9pm)