While planning our trip to Holland, I was already prepared for all the Indonesian restaurants because I was aware that the Dutch had colonized Indonesia. What I had forgotten about was that the Dutch had also colonized other areas of the world, including Suriname, so when my food research revealed that I could also expect Surinamese food, I got even more excited. So, while white-people colonization has clearly had deleterious effects both on people in their native lands as well as ongoing racism against people of color that sadly persists today, the one happy takeaway from all of this awful colonization and pillaging is that these cultures’ foods have fused, creating lots of delicious food to eat across the world. And I get to benefit from eating Surinamese food for the very first time in Amsterdam!
I wasn’t sure what to expect until I took a look at the menu of a spot we chose today. We tried to go to Roopram Roti, but it was unfortunately closed on our last full day in Amsterdam, so instead, we went to Warung Spang Makandra. The service was very friendly, fast, and efficient. We ordered the spang makandra special, which came with fried rice, noodle, chicken fillets, chicken satay, fried egg, potato sambel (almost like a latke), brekedel, and krupuk, a lamb curry with roti, and a large bowl of chicken soup. What all this food conjured up for me was a mix of Indian, African, and Asian cuisine. The curries were like Malaysian-Indian, and the rices and noodles were certainly a fusion of Asian cuisines.
What was very surprising was the chicken soup: it had large pieces of shredded chicken, but what was most notable about it was the broth itself: it was almost smokey, a bit savory, sweet, salty, and umami. It was likely the closest match to Vietnamese pho that I’ve ever had that wasn’t actually pho. It definitely tasted like there were charred or smoked spices and onions used to flavor and sweeten this broth. It was piping hot and so delicious and comforting.
In addition, I was also very surprised by the roti. Surinamese roti, as I later discovered, initially appears to look just like the roti you get in Indian or Malaysian restaurants. Upon touching it and breaking it apart with your hands, though, it seems drier, and then these surprising yellow flakes start falling out of the center of it. Those yellow flakes are ground lentils that are used as filling to make the roti more substantial. They taste very dry, almost buttery when you are chewing them, and they are such a great surprise and touch to roti. It was addictive and a great complement to the lamb curry we had, which had strong similarities with Malaysian curries we’ve eaten before. This whole meal was so surprising and ultimately a learning experience.
Traveling and eating, I’ve learned so much about cultures and fusions and tastes. The overlap of all these cuisines and spices has been so amazing and delicious during this trip.