Fork in my luggage Food

As Dutch as an apple pie

Fill up on frites, pancakes and Gouda. Eat loempias with history. Then, finally, settle down with a hefty slice of this celebrated apple pie

I tick all the touristy ‘must do’ boxes on my first trip to Amsterdam.

Paper cones of freshly fried golden potato frites liberally dusted with salt and topped with squiggles of cool mayonnaise. Warm stroopwafels sticky with syrup at Albert Cuyp market. Bitterballen, crisp outside and mushy inside, courtesy a steaming roux of meat, herbs and broth, at old-fashioned pubs, accompanied by glasses of chilled beer. Even raw herring, served with just a smattering of chopped onions.

There’s an advantage to having a Dutch brother-in-law and an Amsterdam-based sister: by trip two, I’m done with the museums, clichéd Dam Square and stereotypical Dutch street food. (Though I must admit, I will never tire of frites.) Through them, I discover the unabashedly calorific kapsalon, a higgledy piggledy blend of local pop-food, frites topped with shawarma meat and squishy Gouda cheese, all spiked with a cocktail of spicy, garlicky sauces.

As Dutch as an apple pie
 

By trip three, I’m a pro at finding FEBOs across the city; a sensible Dutch solution for inevitable late night munchies, these are a chain of dinky glass cabinets with snacks constantly replenished from a kitchen behind: pop a couple of Euros into a vending-machine slot, open the window and help yourself to a wall of croquettes, deep-fried cheese and mini burgers.

I gradually begin to appreciate the city’s rich, and often overlooked, food culture, shaped by its colourful history. Indonesian-Dutch food, for instance, an intriguing amalgamation of familiar flavours, techniques and spices juxtaposed in surprising ways. Food stalls at street markets serve loempias, spring rolls made of deep-fried rice paper filled with meat, vegetables and noodles. We eat rijsttafel (rice table) at home, consisting of a slew of little dishes filled with vegetables, meat and rice. Dessert is spekkoek, a labour-intensive layered cake featuring buttery batter spiced with cloves, cinnamon and ginger.

Back in town

Naturally, by my latest visit (number six — but who’s counting), I’ve honed my Dutch diet to a fine art. Frites every other day, of course. Poffertjes, which are little puffy pancakes made of yeast and buckwheat, topped with a fat blob of butter from friendly Ome Tom’s stall at bustling Dappermarkt. And always, a hefty slice of apple pie at Winkel 43.

Arguably the best apple pie in Amsterdam, it’s made with cake-like dough at the bottom that’s crisp around the edges. It’s stuffed with sweet, tender slices of baked apples and topped with a buttery lattice of pastry.

The café, housed in a charming old building, is set at the corner of Noordermarkt and is always packed with people. Like most of them, I have a standard order: apple pie with a dollop of cream. After all, if you’re going to be indulgent, you may as well go the whole Marie Antoinette.

It’s a riotous blend of flavours and textures, with crunchy corners and soft steamy insides. The sweetness is moreish and mellow, sharpened by carefully balanced spices. I browse multiple recipes to try and recreate it. Day dream about ordering myself an entire pie, freezing it and carrying it home to India. Greedily consider ordering an extra slice to eat on my return flight. But in the end, I just order another slice.

After all, the Winkel effect is as much about atmosphere as it is flavour. About sitting in cheerful spring sunshine with nothing more important to do than eat a slice of very Dutch, Dutch apple pie.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 7:35:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/as-dutch-as-apple-pie/article19179166.ece

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