i knew shortly after landing at schiphol airport in that i would not be impressed by dutch food. i arrived in holland three weeks ago. bleary eyed and caked with a thick film of stale airplane air, i stumbled off my red-eye flight from jfk hungry and desperate for something to eat. i wasn't exactly excited for my first encounter with dutch food as i had been warned by many europeans that dutch cuisine wasn't, well, exactly something to get excited about. i walked around and around the airport surveying all my options. the problem wasn't so much that there weren't options; there were. the problem was more that none of them were appealing options. i finally settled on what appeared to be an italian deli. there were paninis and pasta salad and i quickly settled on a mozzarella-tomato-basil panini. it didn’t seem like something you could really mess up that bad but unfortunately i was wrong. there was not even a trace of italian-ness in this bad excuse for a hot italian sandwich. i was served two slices of a half-ripe tomato with some hard chewy cheese slapped onto a cold ciabatta – hardly the oozing-with-fresh-mozzarella-emanating-with-the-fresh-aroma-of-basil-hot-sandwich i was anticipating. but beggars can’t be choosers, and i was hungry. i managed to get 2/3rds of the sandwich down before i just gave up.
i knew this was just going to be a small preview of my future meals in holland. since then, my lunches have consisted of ham on a baguette, yogurt and a banana. it seems that “taste” is not a top priority for food around here; after all, the dutch can slap a hardboiled egg on a piece of rye bread and call that a meal. however, i have been become a huge fan of the dutch herring, which was introduced to me by a dutch colleague of mine in the cafeteria one day. this traditional dutch fare is the cause of celebration every may when the fishing season starts and the festivities begin. the herring is cured in brine and then eaten raw. the taste is strong and reminds me a lot of anchovies but has a much silkier texture. the dutch way of eating it involves taking the it by the tail and lowering it into your mouth while chomping down on the little fish. it is also often topped with diced raw onions and pickles or eaten with rye bread.
so, after a long work week in holland and many a bland-dutch lunches, i look forward to my weekends back in where there’s always a new restaurant to try out or a new food festival to attend. this weekend, i made my way to the east of the city, taking the district line to aldgate east where a sea of bangledeshi, paskitani and indian restaurants await just blocks away on brick lane; where tables and tables of cheap housewares and south asian goods fill brick lane market; where stalls of cheap ethnic food, vintage wear and artisan crafts are tucked away in alleyways and emptied warehouses. this sunday, i went and explored everything that brick lane had to offer sampling and savoring my weekend break from my weekday lunches.
a sea of south asian restaurants line brick lane in the east of london
i am a sucker for cupcakes and these from "crumbs & doilies" kick magnolia's ass (sorry to all those magnolia fans out there)
tropical salads that have you transported to the caribbean upon first bite
let this man teach you how to crack into a juicy coconut (he looks like he knows what he's doing)
where you can get a filling of curry along alongside a filling of run dmc blasting from the speakers
i helped myself to a huge helping of their tortillas espanola (one of my favorite spanish tapas) and my first cadiz salad, a salad consisting of kidney beans, diced gherkins, red peppers, tuna and dill
crepe making and sushi making all in one place? from france to japan all in one market.