A lot of what we heard while in Amsterdam, either on the canal tour or via museum, and in our day trip to Zaanse Schaans was about the Dutch golden age. At first I might have thought they made it up because I’ve never really heard of it before. But there is quite a lot more to Dutch history than we typically learn in the US. Or I was out sick that week. I’ve studied fairly extensively on the topics of the renaissance period but really learned much more about Italy than of the Netherlands. The Dutch had quite a thing going with trade and colonial rule and all that entails. Result? They are still quite fond of Indonesian food and make quite a lot of it.
We saw an Anthony Bourdain Layover episode on Amsterdam and he mentioned going to a restaurant called Tempoe Doeloe. It looked …fancy. But it also looked …..delicious. I gave it a shot. Researching the website and online reviews. I came to find it occupies a niche I had never heard of called Michelin BibGourmand. I’m not sure how this escaped my attention before as I read food writings on a regular basis but I never did. They are self defined as:
We spent the third day in happy and stone cold pursuit of adventure. We tramped to Dam Centraal where we purchased Sprinter train tickets for Zaanse Schaans (€14 round trip). I never really rode a real train before so between that and a pouring rain hike over a canal during –which I figured I would soon be swept into– from the gale of wind numbing every inch of my being, the trip was exciting! We made it to a sort of faux historical area outside Amsterdam called Zaanse Scaans where they have relocated windmills and restored them alongside some traditions Dutch craft workshops such a Genever distillery where I sample the local fire water and asked questions about the precursor to gin. There is a fascinating Klompen shop with a mini museum of amazing examples of wooden shoes including bridal and Sunday best alongside specialized clogs for snowy or icy regions. There was one windmill we could tour that had barrels of giant cinnamon sticks and cinnamon grinding on the windmills wheel. That brings me back to the Dutch East Indies.
The Dutch found a fondness for Indonesian food that endures today and at Tempoe Doeloe they’ve elevated what I suppose is a somewhat modest cuisine of long stewed meats and spices and stunning street foods by using top notch ingredients, placing them carefully on beautiful white plates, and service. Fair warning that we heard they weren’t great about taking cards so we came armed with cash and had no problems. The service would be somewhat slower than we are used to in the US but I found this to be true across all venues and assumed it is really just a somewhat more leisurely pace than we are used to. I loved the crunchy sweet vegetable salads and small dishes perfectly cooked green beans and greens served alongside the long cooked daging rendang padang – beef in a strongly seasoned sauce of chili peppers and coconut and ajam paniki – chicken in a slightly spicy, fresh sauce of pandan leaves, lemongrass, coconut and candle-/berry- nuts. The sauces had so much texture from the long cooking process. It was carefully made well done food. It made what to us, being very unknown or foreign tastes, very comfortable and familiar. The entrees came out with small dishes of accompaniments that included some lightly cooked green beans, some greens with ginger, shrimp chips and a quick bright pickled vegetable along with white rice and yellow rice. Each bite can be composed to cover all the flavor profiles. If you get a chance at Indonesian cuisine I’d highly recommend it. Ask questions and be careful of a potential fiery spice factor if that stresses your ‘system’ but you won’t be sorry.
The next morning we got up at 4am to catch that €5 bus back to Schiphol where we boarded a plane for the next leg of our adventure. We really enjoyed Amsterdam. It was refreshingly different from our day to day life and full of new things to learn and experience. I hope we will be back to see more.