Posted by: nancycurteman | March 13, 2012

Rijsttafel: Try It You’ll Like It

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The last time I visited Amsterdam, Holland I dined in a restaurant that served a Dutch/Indonesian specialty called rijsttafel. Rijsttafel is a Dutch word for an Indonesian meal. It means “rice table.” This meal is a true feast. It consists of mini side dishes surrounding a large serving of rice. The condiments may include all or some of the following foods depending on how many you order: egg-roll, fried prawns, chicken brochette, pork brochette, lamb in curry sauce, spicy stewed beef, fish in bean sauce, spiced cucumber, various vegetables with peanut sauce, marinated potatoes, fried coconut powder. In short, you may have anywhere from ten to forty small tidbits to liven up your rice.

The rijstaffel chef is like an artist. She strives to enhance a simple rice dish with an array of flavors, colors, degrees of spiciness and textures (crispy, chewy, slippery, soft, hard, velvety, gelatinous).

Here’s a bit on the origin of this unique dish. Indonesia, nicknamed the Spice Islands centuries ago by European spice traders, is a chain of more than 13,000 islands. Each group of islands has developed its own traditional foods using local herbs and spices. This rich variety of foods is called “Indonesian” cuisine.

Rijstaffel originated when Indonesia was a Dutch colony. Indonesians from the various island groups pooled together their culinary creations into one buffet style menu, the rice table. The Dutch enjoyed rijstaffel so much that it became the signature meal of Amsterdam.

Now there are Indonesian restaurants in almost every Amsterdam neighborhood. They range in price from about €15 up to €40 depending on the quantity and quality of their rijstaffel.

I recommend Sama Sebo on P.C. Hooftstraat 27 right near the Rijskmuseum. It’s one of the oldest and best rijsttafel restaurants in Amsterdam. You will pay around 29 Euros per person for a meal. Just remember, you’re not just buying food you’re buying an experience. I combined two art experiences, a trip to the museum and rijstaffel.

If you’re not planning a trip to Amsterdam anytime soon, there are many rijstaffel restaurants throughout the United States. I plan to try Borobudur on Post Street in San Francisco.

However you manage it, do try rijstaffel. It will be a memorable experience.

More Travel Tips:

The Kyoto “Kobe Beef Experience”

Egyptian Fast Food: Cairo Cart Vendors

Great Cape Town African Restaurant: Marco’s African Place

Photo: Indonesische-kueche


  1. That DOES sound good!


  2. Some of those sides sound wonderful, NC ~ I love veggies in peanut sauce or with curry.


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