The capital of the Netherlands only has a few options when it comes to having Chinese hotpot. Chinese cuisine is very popular among the Dutch, but usually what is considered ‘Chinese food’ in the Netherlands is actually a hybrid between Chinese, Indonesian, and European cuisine and relates to the history of the Dutch East Indies.
The first big wave of Chinese immigrants, mostly from Guangdong, arrived in the Netherlands in 1911, when Dutch shipping companies brought them over from England in order to break the big strike of Dutch sailors. Later on, immigrants from, amongst others, Zhejiang and Shandong also followed in their footsteps (Koetse 2012).
Because of the influence of return migration and immigration from Indonesia in the 1950s, and with Chinese restaurants catering to local tastes, so-called “Chinese-Indonesian cuisine” starting to become popular in the Netherlands in the 1950s, which is not considered authentic Chinese food, nor real Indonesian food (Ember et al 2005, 661).
As a result, many Dutch consider dishes such as ‘bami’ (stir-fried noodles), ‘kroepoek’ (fried prawn crackers), and ‘nasi’ (stir-fried rice dish) to be ‘typical Chinese restaurant’ food, when they, in fact, are not.
In such a hybrid food culture, getting the ‘authentic thing’ when it comes to typical Chinese dining styles such as hotpot is not easy.
As a real hotpot lover, I have previously found some restaurants in the Netherlands that serve Chinese hotpot, but most of them do not even list it on their menu.
Chengdu in the North of Amsterdam
The Chengdu Restaurant, in the north of Amsterdam, does. Every Tuesday to Thursday, it serves hotpot for € 21,50 per person. From Friday to Sunday and during holidays, the price per person is € 24,50.
I recently paid a visit to the Chengdu Restaurant to see what it was all about. The reviews on the internet did not get me really excited, with some reviews even warning people: “Don’t eat at this restaurant, my wife and me had to most horrible experience.” The restaurant is located in a somewhat remote area of Amsterdam, which is not a lively neighborhood at all.
We arrived at the restaurant with a group of six and we chose to have two hotpot broths: a spicy one and a non-spicy one.
The Chengdu Restaurant offers an all you can eat buffet for hot-potting customers. Once the hotpot is set up, you can go to the buffet to add various meats, vegetables, and seafood to your plate.
There also is a sauce bar, allowing customers to mix a dipping sauce according to their own taste. There is sesame sauce, soy, garlic, coriander, vinegar, etc. – the basic ingredients to mix your preferred hotpot dip.
When we visited on a Tuesday night, there was only one other table occupied in the restaurant, and it was not always easy to order a drink: multiple times, we had to go to the kitchen area to call on a waiter to ask for a refill of drinks.
Although the lack of service and empty restaurant environment could put people off, it also gave us the freedom to talk in privacy and have the place to ourselves while enjoying our hotpot, so that definitely was not a bad thing at all.
The broths were tasty – the spicy one definitely offers a taste of Chengdu hotpot. There were plenty of ingredients, and there was a selection of both Chinese or Dutch beers.
Is it worth it?
But all in all, the question is: it is worth it? The downsides of the Chengdu Restaurant are that it does not have a lively atmosphere, the service isn’t that great (although the Chinese owner is very friendly), and the hotpot ingredients are not all very fresh (some of the meat was frozen). If I was in Beijing or Chengdu, it might not really be considered up to standard.
In Amsterdam, however, where there are very few hotpot places, and where hotpot ingredients are not always easy to come by, the Chengdu Restaurant offers an opportunity for visitors or locals to enjoy some spicy Chinese hotpot and the all-you-can-eat experience without any hassle and the freedom to experiment with various sauces and ingredients.
If you are with a group of five-six people or more, you could actually throw your own hotpot party for the same cost of dining there.
But if you’re in for an easy night, with some soothing and quiet hotpot, paying a visit to Chengdu in Amsterdam may be the right move for you. It has all the right ingredients and the right broth, which makes it perfect for people to try out hotpot if they haven’t done so yet.
That is, until one day, I open up my own hotpot place in this area. Then I’ll recommend you to visit me, instead :-)!
From Tuesday-Sunday 12.00 to 14.00, 17.00 to 22.00
Bogortuin 2, 1019 PG Amsterdam
By Manya Koetse
Ember, Melvin, Carol R. Ember, Ian Skoggard (eds). 2005. Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World. New Delhi: Springer US.
Koetse, Manya. 2012. “The Imagined Space of ‘Chinatown’.” Available online at https://www.manyakoetse.com/the-imagined-space-of-chinatown/ [21.5.19].
All images by: Hotpotambassador.com