Kantjil To Go
The Dutch have a love-love relationship with Indonesian cuisine stretching back to colonial days. The Rijsttafel, literally meaning rice table, is a colonial invention, putting together all the specialities of the Indian archipelago into a single menu.
The darker side of this tale is the ‘Chin. Ind.’ restaurant, the fusion of Chinese entrepreneurship and kitchen with Indonesian food and Dutch boorish taste. The result is a type of take-away restaurant where lacklustre personnel serve you sweet and fat food in a setting that must have stopped looking stylish in China 50 years ago, but that persists here because it is what the owners think the Dutch working class perceive as authentically Chinese.
If you want to enjoy the genuine Indonesian kitchen—disregarding for a moment that that is an imperialistic product that only truly exists in the imperialist fantasies of those Javanese who think they own the country—you should therefore steer away from the Chin. Ind. nightmare, the Dutch equivalent of the ‘Paki,’ and look for restaurants that bill themselves as Indonesian only.
Kantjil & de Tijger is such a restaurant. Whenever you walk past it on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam, it looks warm and cosy and filled with people having a good time, and their take-away has a hip name, Kantjil To Go, and uses an abstract red and white styling to kill any lingering fears about the ‘classic’ Chin. Ind. take-aways. It’s the sort of place you expect the account managers, advertising execs and stock brokers of the city to pop by when too busy to cook for themselves.
Unfortunately when I tried it, the rice was fried dry, and the rendang meat was chewy. Considering that Kantjil To Go only serve 8 or 9 relatively simple dishes, they simply should not even manage to mess these up. Kantjil To Go is therefore an experience I am not going to repeat.
So where do you eat good Indonesian food in Amsterdam? I am afraid I still do not know. I associate good Indonesian food with the meals the mothers of the ‘Indo’ girl-friends of my brothers used to cook, but unfortunately my brothers have long since started dating outside the Emerald Chain.