Sunday, March 13, 2011

Of Chinatown And The Amsterdam Flower Market

Taking a break from my work, I headed out for a stroll through Amsterdam. My destinations? I wanted to walk through Chinatown, to get a little of that hometown feel. And I had the aim of making it to the city's flower market (which had come highly recommended).

The flower market, which is located along a little bend in a picturesque canal, was absolutely loaded with bulbs of all kinds. I guess it's that time of year here in the Netherlands. (There were also plenty of cannabis starter sets being sold. I suppose there's just no getting away from certain sights and smells here in Amsterdam...)

As for Chinatown, it is no San Francisco, but it certainly blows DC away. I was especially happy because I found a store that sells the green tea I live on in when over there in the Middle Kingdom. (Sorry, Julie!)

I was also pleased (to say the least!) to find a restaurant that specializes in the spicy cuisines of Beijing and Sichuan. You have to remember that most Chinatowns around the world are dominated by people from Guangdong Province, the folks who bring us Cantonese dim sum and other such delights. No offense to the good people of Guangdong, but I am just partial to the spicy cuisines of places like Beijing, Hunan, and Sichuan. Authentic takes on these cuisines are very hard to come by outside of China itself. (Trust me, your local take-out place that calls itself "Szechuan Palace" or "Hunan Delight" is just using a brand name. People from China would have pretty much no idea what was being served.)

Anyways, it was great to see 土豆丝 (tudousi) on the menu. This shredded potato dish, served Beijing style with tons of red hot chili peppers, was a perfect choice for a meatless Friday in Lent. And all of the spices gave me an extra excuse to chug down some serious green tea (also perfect for the guy who has given up soda for Lent).

~Steve

PS: As I exited the shop where I picked up the green tea, a group of young guys asked me, "Hey, did you go to GW?" (I was wearing a GW wool hat.) As it turns out, these guys are GW students studying abroad in Madrid for the semester, and they have come up to Amsterdam for the weekend. One of the guys is actually a political science major who may very well be in one of my classes next semester. Pretty cool!

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