Monday, October 03, 2011

PUNCAK

It's odd that the restaurant should be named after a mountain resort where Dutch civil servants went to escape the heat and eat their own food. Especially when it's one of the few places in that country where 'poffertjes' are known.

Poffertjes are perhaps the quintessential Dutch fair food. Tiny puff-batter pancakes cooked in a special pan with indentations, buttery hot and dusted with powdered sugar. Quite unsuited to the tropics. Other Dutch delicacies commonly available at hotels and restaurants there are pannekoeken (crepes) and kroketten. As well as Dutch cakes and confections.
The frikadel, which did not become well-known till the sixties, is of course unknown.
To say nothing of the bamibal or the nasischijf.

The restaurant in Amsterdam, however, serves none of those things.
But the food is very good indeed.


RESTAURANT POENTJAK PAS
Nassau Kade 366
Amsterdam
Telephone: 020-6180906


Unlike the steep slopes near the peaks of Gunung Gede and Pangrango in western Java, in the Bogor Regency, Puncak Pass restaurant in Amsterdam is in one of the flattest areas you will know. Holland does not have mountains, and the great city on the Amstel river is, essentially, a glorious mud flat. The restaurant is barely two blocks away from the Overtoom, relatively near the Van Gogh Museum and the Vondel Park.
The food, of course, is Indonesian.

In the days when the Dutch were still in Java, they sometimes times felt homesick for cool weather and Dutch food. Those who returned to Holland after the war still had the air of the Indies in their nostrils, and were homesick instead for distant emerald islands and the familiar tastes of their younger years.
The Puncak ('peak') pass area was a place additionally that many veterans were familiar with, because of heightened nationalist activity in Western Java during the Indonesian independence struggle. Western Java (Sunda) had been the heartland of the Dutch colonial world, where the empire maintained longer than anywhere else. Consequently it was also the area that many would miss the most when they departed - some of them had family histories in Sunda dating back several generations.

What you will eat at the Poentjak Pas Restaurant is some of the best Indonesian food in the Netherlands.
The proprietress, if she is still alive - it has been over ten years since I was last there - is a gracious elderly lady, whose Indonesian speech still has the antique flavour of the pre-war period.
I remember her as a warm hostess, both intensely interested in her guests as well as diplomatically discrete. The food, every single time, was stellar.


Sundanese food is not as sweet as dishes in Central Java, and has a lighter touch with strong flavours, relying instead on freshness and fragrance. With a vast array of vegetable dishes, or vegetable and meat or fish combinations, plus salads of raw and blanched ingredients, and tangy relishes, it is reputed to be good for the skin, accounting for the lovely complexions of the women in Western Java.


My uncle Jan may dream of the old days on the Puncak Pass in Indonesia.
I remember evenings at the Poentjak Pas in Amsterdam.
My memories are no less golden.
A very warm place.


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2 comments:

Curious said...

What the deuces is a 'bamischijf'?

The back of the hill said...

A bamischijf is the modern variation on the bamie bal.










Okay, that didn't help. Sorry. Schijf means disc, and bami is meaty noodle. In this context, cooked spiced noodles compacted together, dipped in crumbs and egg, and deep-fried crusty. Sort of a croquette with a nice savoury taste, and not at all greasy. The bamie ball, its ancestor, was invented in the sixties. Too much noodle, not enough crispy crunchy crust.

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