Experience Indonesia at Tempoe Doeloe

I know that European Imperialism gets a bad rap. Manifest destiny and all that jazz, you know the drill.

However…putting aside all social responsibility and serious discussion…

It led to some pretty banging food in other parts of the world. Think afternoon tea in Hong Kong. Indian food in London. And – one of my favorites – Indonesian food in Amsterdam.

During the time that the Dutch occupied Indonesia, these cheese-centric Europeans learned how to makes some of my favorite Asian food.

Indonesian food’s intricate spices and layers of texture remind me of other favorite Asian foods of mine, especially Thai and Indian. If you like garlic, coconut, and layers of flavor, you will totally be into Indonesian food.

Oh yeah, and if you order rijsttafel, you also get to try it all. Because this traditional “rice table” means that you get 18 dishes delivered to your table.

That’s right…it’s a buffet at your seat.

My dream.

amsterdam day 2 123 Tempoe Doeloe is one one of Amsterdam’s most highly regarded Indonesian restaurants. It is a small, very crowded restaurant that is decorated with a few mirrors, some colonial Indonesian furniture, and so many tables that you will become best friends with your neighbors whether you want to or not.  amsterdam day 2 125

Where the magic happens.  amsterdam day 2 126

Don’t even look at the menu. Go for the biggest rijstaffel that they have. You want to try it all.

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These tabletop burners are brought to your table to keep the many small dishes warm. As your stomach starts grumbling, you are brought some tender pork satay swathed in a nutty, tangy peanut sauce. It’s tender and savory – like Indonesia’s answer to hot wings. Just be sure to save some room for… amsterdam day 2 129 Coconut turmeric ricCreamy and strewn with crispy fried shallots. The perfect accompaniment for the many fiery, creamy sauces that are to come.

amsterdam day 2 131 Though you are advised to eat the trays from mild to spicy, let’s start with the medium spicy tray. The small ramekins are filled with shrimp in a garlicky butter sauce, tofu in a coconut chile stew, and green beans cooked with yet more garlic, red peppers, and fragrant lemongrass. The beef in the back is crisp and on the sweeter side, while the chicken has a more fiery taste. The spices in Indonesian food are lip-tingling and zesty, so be sure that you can handle the heat. 
amsterdam day 2 132 The mild buffet is tasty too, from the coriander-spiked beef stew to the warm cabbage salad. The warm cucumber in its vinaigrette is a little weird, but hey…when in Indonesia, right? These dishes are all great for kids or adults who are adventurous but don’t love super spicy or garlicky food. They are similar to Thai food but with way less fish sauce or salty flavors.  amsterdam day 2 133 Whoa, Nelly. It’s getting hot in here. From pretty hot to the absolutely fiery and fearsome  daging rendang, this plate is not for criers. This is for people who love the slow burn from your tongue to your forehead. Who relish dabbing heir heads with napkins. Nothing here is as punishing as phaal, but it gets pretty darned close. However, the subtle nuances of flavors like coconut, cilantro, and caramelized onions to shine through.

amsterdam day 2 134 That daging rendang is a beast, though. It doesn’t taste hot, then as you continue to take bites, you realize that your lips have slightly swelled. That your temples are sweating. And that your ears have the faintest ringing sound echoing through them The tender beef is wonderful and earthy in that spicy, faintly sweet coconut and chile paste. And yes, your lips will be stained red for the next 24 hours.

But what you take away from this meal isn’t just heartburn, a rather sizeable bill, and the memory of a great meal. It’s the experience of eating a food that is rarely seen in this country. It’s the realization that there is a whole new cuisine that you want to explore. It’s Amsterdam’s history in the tastiest way possible.