Most people seem puzzled that I crave Chinese food. I didn't understand why until I realized that most people's experience of Chinese food is take-out. What I crave is what I grew up eating in the West Bay Area: steamed fish, lap cheung chicken, salted fish with steamed ground pork, ginger chicken, dim sum. I call it Cantonese because it's the language my dad spoke, but if I were to describe the flavor in one word, it would be "clean," but nowhere near the sense of "clean eating." It was just rare that I'd have a heavy sauce to accompany the food, or that anything would be fried. What I've read about Cantonese cuisine and what I understand from growing up don't always seem to match, but this isn't a space for nitpicking.
After a couple months of living in Germany, we took a week-long trip to Amsterdam. We were looking forward to all the Asian food opportunities, but the one I wanted to visit most was Nam Kee, a highly-reviewed Chinese restaurant. It was the first restaurant we went to when we arrived. The craving was real.
As we approached, I saw the hanging roast ducks in the window - a pretty solid sign of legitimacy. As far as I could see, there were only a handful of tables in the narrow restaurant. I opened the menu to see dishes upon dishes that I had not seen in a long time. We ordered gai lan (Chinese broccoli) cooked with garlic, peking duck noodle soup, and peking duck and crispy pork over rice.
Nam Kee is one of the only restaurants in Europe that has tugged at the heart strings tangled around my belly so deeply that the food instilled a nostalgic hunger that could not be satiated.
The peking duck noodle soup was rich but simple, and I couldn't get enough. It was just chicken broth, egg noodles, duck, and cabbage leaves. The flavor sent me spiraling down memory lane, though nothing was ever detailed enough for me to remember clearly. It was mostly just feelings of warmth and happiness. While the gai lan and rice dish were equally delicious, I would recommend this restaurant for the soup.
There are three Nam Kee restaurants, but we went to the Nieumarkt location: Geldersekade 117, 1011 EN Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31 20 6392848