My favorite thing about living in Amsterdam: eating ‘non-Dutch’ foods. There are many Turkish and Middle Eastern mini-markets in my neighborhood, as well as a couple of Indian-Pakistani grocery stores that typically offer standard South Asian items such as lentils, rice, ghee and spices. As a westerner, these grocery stores are a great way to find new inspiration in the kitchen.
Some products look very intriguing -like for example this package of papadam featuring a pink rabbit and a strange-looking child :) I just wonder how the packaging designer came up with this idea.
Prices are probably 3 times the prices these products cost in Asia, but they’re still reasonably priced for Europe, especially in comparison with the fancy ‘healthy’ products from trendy ‘natural food stores’ that can be extremely over-priced for what they really are.
Here is a selection of products from the Indian-Pakistani store that can definitely compete with overpriced organic products like goji berries or chia seeds that are marketed as ‘super foods’.
Fennel distilled water acts as a gastric stimulant for the liver, kidney, speen and bladder. One bottle cost less than 4 euro (portion size is 40 ml). The water tastes rather strong, a bit like unsweetened licorice. I think it works great as a diuretic and purifier for the digestive tract. Good idea to do a cure of this after the holidays!
The ultimate 2-in-1 product: a nutty seasoning oil and an all-natural hair oil for less than 2 euro. Makes your hair stronger and softer without any chemicals AND season your salad at the same time! Great value for money, 100% pure mustard oil as the only ingredient.
You might not necessarily know what to make with all the different kinds of lentil flours available in Indian grocery stores. But you can actually easily come up with your own simple pancakes and crepes by replacing your regular flour with it. Great to reduce overall gluten-consumption in baked good. You just have to take into account that lentil flour usually works best in savory recipes.
|Dry roasted chana (chickpeas)
Low in fat and packed with good carbs, fiber and protein. No sodium added. Great snack on-the-go to satisfy hunger and keeping blood sugar levels stable. Less than 2 euro for 300 grams.
A spice that can serves as a kind of salt-replacement. It can be added on almost any dish. It has an onion-like flavor, but better. You can think of it like Parmesan, or soy sauce: it gives dishes a savory element, but without any sodium.
Sweetest fruit I have ever eaten. If you really have a knack for mangoes, you won’t want anything but Pakistani mangoes and you won’t buy any South American mangoes anymore after trying these. Soft, pulpy, fragrant, Pakistani mangoes make a terrific post workout snack. Frozen, they make delicious one-ingredient sorbet. Pakistani mangoes’ season is from the beginning of May until mid-August.
A mouth freshener is scented after-meal snack which helps digestion. It is usually prepared with anise seeds, fennel seeds, sesame seeds and coconut. Many brands do contain some sugar, but there are also sugar-free mixes. This makes a really nice all-natural substitute for chewing gum. Especially if you’re a gum addict like me, who need a little something to end a meal and stop eating.
There are a number of Indian restaurants in Amsterdam, but like the vast majority of all restaurants in Amsterdam, there are not really worth the money. However, Pakistani and Indian grocery stores offer many ready-made frozen products that taste great. Like all ready-made products, they can be pretty high in sodium and fat, so they’re more for special occasions or for a Saturday treat meal. But they’re terrific to make your own Indian meal without any particular efforts. And you can make them a little bit lighter than the traditional recipe: for example, I like cooking samosas in a pan instead of deep-frying them, and they still taste great.