Due to the rich history of the Dutch East Indes, ethnic food in the Netherlands is ubiquitous and authentic. Many restaurants default to standard International fare but if you find yourself in a good market (or a more traditional Dutch restaurant) you might be lucky enough to experience Indonesian or Surinamese specialities.
Chicken Saté is the most common of these. Touristy restaurants tend to serve a sickly sweet, tar-like sauce from a tub but if you find yourself in a real Dutch cafe such as Wildschut, at a quality restaurant like Loetje or at an Indonesian food stall make sure you order kipsaté.
I was recently lucky enough to eat at Satebar Charley which despite stiff competition is in my opinion the very best in town. You’ll find this Indonesian food truck at the Lindengracht food market in the Jordaan on Saturdays or in the market at the Amstelveen Shopping Centre on Fridays It offers the real deal and trust me, I’ve tried a few. Order the “special” (pictured) – I like chicken but you can also choose pork, lamb or goat – and you’ll be served a feast – 5 sticks of saté along with lontong (a kind of compressed and cut rice cake); acar (a wonderful fresh vegetable pickle) and krupuk (something a little like a Chinese prawn cracker). Go out of your way to eat Charley’s saté. It’s worth a special trip (and whilst you’re there, order a side of the wonderful corn fritters know as Frikadel Jagung).
Another way to get your Satay fix (look out for a range of spellings) is to get your chips (at a stall like Vleminckx rather than a restaurant) and ask for saté-sauce along with mayonnaise.
Surinamese food is arguably even more exciting. The Dutch brought labourers from Indonesia, India and China to work on the African plantations and naturally the cuisine (and indeed the people) reflect this mix. If you’re in The Pijp area, why not stop off at Oriental grocer Tjin’s International Foodstore on the Eerste van der Helststraat. Alongside international groceries and condiments they prepare Surinamese sandwiches to take away. Try a broodtje Pom – a traditional Surinamese sandwich of Jewish influence made from chicken, citrus, relish and a sweet-potato like vegetable called pomtajer. Given the heritage of Surinamese cuisine you won’t be surprised to hear its sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time, and more importantly absolutely delicious. Alternatively if you’re lucky enough to visit the market at the Westergasfabriek or are in Amsterdam for the extraordinary annual Kings Day then make sure you stop by a street-food vendor to taste other Surinamese specialties.