The Dutch have a long history with Indonesia, since the island country was another Dutch colony up until 1950. Because of that, Indonesian food is everywhere here, and is as much “Dutch” as Gouda. Last weekend we decided it was time we tried some Indonesian, and rode down to Sari Citra in the De Pijp neighborhood. It’s a cute little place with a small number of tables and a take-out counter by a big case of Indonesian delicacies.
I feel like in the past few years I’ve gotten pretty good at ordering traditional Indian food– I know what paneer, tandoori, and tikka mean. Same with Thai food– Tom Kha Soup, Pad Thai, and Pra Ram are all familiar friends to me now. Even some Vietnamese, with delicious Pho and Bahn Mi. But Indonesian… I know nothing. The menu had translations, but those are in Dutch, of course.
So we did what the Dutch must have done all those years ago when confronted with a lot of unknown food. “Bring us a little bit of everything!” It’s called a rijstafel (“rice table”), a traditional Dutch way of eating Indonesian. It’s a family-style meal of small plates, a little bit of everything. Delicious, massive, and excellent. We had a bit of leftovers.
I tried to match ingredients with words, and came away feeling a little bit better. Gado-gado is veggies in peanut sauce, Nasi Goreng is fried rice, and Sambal is a spicy sauce. Kerupuk are deep fried cracker-type things, often with fish sauce added.
Afterwards, we found an international market and loaded ourselves up with Indonesian ingredients like the spicy sambal and sweet soy Ketjap Manis to create some dishes at home. I’ve aready tackled some fried noodles and and a rice curry, and Jesse made up a tasty fried rice dish. Pretty soon I’ll be as fluent in Indonesian as I am in any other international food! Which is to say, not very. But at least it tastes good when I cook it.
Oh, we also found the “American section” at the food market, which cracked me up:
Apparently us Americans can’t live without Betty Crocker cake mixes and frosting. I’ll take the peanut butter and pop tarts. Strawberry marshmallow fluff? Not so much.