It’s a damn shame, but the Indian restaurants in Amsterdam are all pretty crap. Honestly, you can get better Indian food in Louisville. The Dutch have Indonesian food as their go-to takeaway and that, plus Holland’s fairly bland palate and intolerance of spicy foods, means that good Indian food is tough to find. I’ve tried dozens of restaurants that were all highly recommended, only to be disappointed every time. I have a reliable local that we call up for delivery sometimes, but even it’s a concession – okay Indian food for Amsterdam.
When we took a weekend trip to London a few months ago, there were a few things on my must-do list, the top four of which were all food-related: proper pint, proper chips with vinegar, proper sticky toffee pudding, and a proper curry.
Thankfully, the part of Amsterdam where I live is full of immigrants and the food options are pretty great, diverse and authentic. We still haven’t found a solid Indian restaurant, but, near the Dappermarkt, we stumbled upon the next best thing: an Indian grocery store. We had passed Authentic India a few times while visiting Dappermarkt but until last weekend had never ventured inside.
Trenton was looking for paneer but we ended up carrying home so much more. The shelves are full of spices and ingredients typical to Indian cuisine. Stuff that can be tricky to find in general purpose grocery stores like garam masala, fenugreek, mustard seeds and bulk-sized bags of ground coriander. We loaded up on inexpensive essentials like the above, as well as a toddler-sized bag of red lentils. I was skipping around like a kid in a candy store (or a me in a bookstore) and Trenton, always the sensible one, advised that we should probably try to limit our purchases to what we could carry and also conceivably consume in a one lifetime. I reluctantly agreed and stepped away from the bags of basmati.
We almost left the store without paneer, but Trenton boldly asked the woman behind the counter where he might find some. She seemed delighted to be asked and informed us that they make it fresh, pulling a cooler out from behind the counter. This was the good shit. She hacked us off 500 grams and wrapped it in plastic.
This is a family owned operation and at one point, mom had to politely excuse herself to attend to her son (maybe 9 or 10 years old) who was watching YouTube videos in the back. He eventually joined her up front and continued watching his video (in Dutch, ‘tuurlijk) at the counter. She apologized a lot, but needlessly. She was super nice and helpful, and the sincere unpretentiousness of having to take care of your kid was really refreshing.
It is both an obvious statement and embarrassing to admit that it took being an immigrant myself to truly appreciate the hard work it takes to thrive in another country, and the toll it can take. It was so delightful to find this oasis of delicious ingredients and to be able to support a small business run by a family of immigrants kicking ass. It make take us years to finish that bag of lentils, but we’ll be back soon for sure.
And y’all, that paneer…
Authentic India is at Eerste van Swindenstraat 16 in Amsterdam and is open Monday – Saturday 09:30 – 19:30; Sunday 12-17:30.