Finding Indonesian food in the Netherlands is kind of easy, which is maybe due to the long history that these two countries shared. Indonesian restaurants can be found in many cities. In the supermarkets, there are various Indonesian foods which I did not imagine I would find in Europe: tempe, kerupuk (known as kroepoek here), and of course sambal.
Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek
The fact that it is called sambal, the same as Indonesians call it, was surprising for me. As a spicy food lover, it was a happy moment when I first saw so many varieties of sambals and spicy menus at Indonesian restaurants. I was so excited when I bought sambal for the first time. I was thrilled when I ordered a spicy menu at an Indonesian restaurant for the first time. I was so ready to experience the nostalgic feeling of being home. However, the second this so-called sambal or spicy food reached my mouth, my hopes were shattered.
Most of the time, what is defined as spicy here is actually sour to me and most of my Indonesian friends. Sometimes it is even just a sweet flavour. Ever since those first tastes, I do not believe anything that is labelled spicy anymore. Even though it is Indonesian food from an Indonesian restaurant, which is cooked by Indonesians, most likely the flavour has been adjusted to Dutch tastes.
The good news is that the pepper itself, in its raw form, is also available here and is as spicy as it should be. I will just have to be more creative in my kitchen then, to keep up my standard of spiciness. That way, I hope I will not be shocked by the real spicy food when I go back to my country.
Dea Putri Utami, MSc student of Food Technology, from Indonesia
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