Chinese New Year in The Hague (Or: Tip for this Saturday)

Happy Chinese New Year! 2019 is the year of the pig. And not the gluttonous kind…

The Hague will again feature Chinese New Year celebrations this Saturday to mark the occasion – see the scheduled program. The holiday is celebrated nationally in city hall while the local celebrations are held in Chinatown, including Rabbijn Maarsenplein and Bijenkorf’s parking lot.

I’ve always been a big fan of the local celebrations held at Rabbijn Maarsenplein (with its Chinese New Year market) and the area behind Bijenkorf (which always has lovely sculptures). But the dance routines in city hall are not to be missed, either!

Picture from the 2013 Chinese New Year celebrations, in the parking lot behind Bijenkorf

Come check it out. You won’t regret it!

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Categories: Holidays, The Hague | Tags: | 2 Comments

Heel Holland Bakt (Or: Season finale tonight!)

One of my guilty pleasures when it comes to Dutch television programming is Heel Holland Bakt which translates to ‘All of The Netherlands bakes’. Yeah, it sounds better in Dutch…

It is a cooking competition held outside in a tent. The format is a spin off of the UK’s The Great British Bake Off and there are actually many international variants of the program. There was even an American version… for a total of seven episodes. Yikes.

2018-2019 candidates

Actually, Heel Holland Bakt is one of the few weekly Dutch shows that I watch outside of the news programs. Of course when I moved to the Netherlands I watched a lot of television to learn Dutch, but not so much anymore. Don’t get me wrong – half the time the TV is set to some Dutch thing or another (F1 racing is pretty cool when Max Verstappen hasn’t totaled his car in pure anger), but I don’t watch anything with same amount of regularity that I watch Heel Holland Bakt.

One of the highlights of the show is the Dutch comedian André van Duin who presents the show alongside its two judges. I tend to like his style of comedy, and his Dutch is pretty easy to understand. There’s exceptions of course, and I do find myself sometimes turning up the volume a bit too high to understand some references, but it is generally easy enough to follow along.

This season also had two interesting threads to follow: 1) Cas, who has a hearing impairment and 2) the controversy surrounding Maroeska, who may or may not be an amateur baker.

When Cas was selected for the competition he brought along a sign language interpreter (by the name of Wieke) to translate everything. The only question I had was why she would sign everything, even when he wasn’t looking at her. But it turns out that was the agreement the two of them made – sign everything, just in case. You can read an interesting article in Dutch about Cas, Wieke and their experiences here (if you’re caught up).

The other contestant that got a lot of reactions was Maroeska, who has received a ton of criticism in the news and on Twitter because she has in the past written a cookbook and had a catering company. The question is whether or not either of those things disqualify you from joining Heel Holland Bakt because you can’t be considered an amateur. I don’t have an opinion either way – especially in this era of easy self-publishing when anyone can publish a cookbook! – but I do think the criticism has gone too far. It’s a pity.

All in all, it’s been a fun show to watch. I will miss Heel Holland Bakt. And I might have to look up André van Duin in some of his other work.

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Beef noodle pho (Or: It’s what’s for dinner)

(The “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” line is an American slogan from the early ’90s.)

A few weeks ago Marco, Roger and I made Pho again. It’s a Vietnamese soup dish, made with either beef or chicken.

I’ve blogged about pho soup once before, last May. The best part of the dish: the beef is thinly sliced, and then cooked at the table by pouring the hot broth over it.

Tasty! Though I might have been a bit greedy with the amount of coriander I threw on top (although some of it was also mint). The noodles are bean spouts, something I don’t remember having before moving here. In fact, I’ve learned the Dutch name for them, taugé, but always have to look up the English translation. The sprouts pictured above are most likely from Indonesia.

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Talk about last minute (Or: Extension to my residency permit)

I’ve now been in the Netherlands for six years (time flies!). In October of last year I received the letter to renew my residency permit. My first year here I had a one-year permit, but after I married Marco I qualified for a five-year permit (hence the six-year total). This is much appreciated, since the fee (€171) is the same for either case…

I received the notice in mid-October, and send in the paperwork about a week and a half later. Of course, if I had known that the decision could take up to three months, I might not have waited!

The letter above says “We have received your request for an extension to the duration of the residency permit. The timeline for this decision started on October 27, 2018. You can expect the decision by January 25, 2019.” Guess when the next letter arrived with IND’s decision?

No, really. There’s only one right answer.

If you guessed “January 25, 2019” you would be correct!

Marco and I knew that there was a bit of a backlog at IND (understandable, since they aren’t fully staffed) but sheesh. The reason I should have sent in the extension right away was because my residency permit expired a few weeks before the 25th. No big deal, as I simply carried around the letter saying that the extension was in progress, but still. It’s amazing to think your existence in a country is tied to what is effectively a thin piece of plastic with a picture on it.

At least now I am officially legal until January 2024!

Categories: Forms, etc. | Leave a comment

The yearly tradition (Or: Zuurkool, better known as Sauerkraut)

Last Tuesday Marco’s mom made zuurkool for Marco and I (yay!). The three of us have an agreement that she makes zuurkool once a year, when it gets cold out.

This year worked perfectly as Tuesday was the first snowfall in here in the Netherlands. Only about half an inch, give or take, and gone within a day or so. Nothing compared to the cold weather which parts of the U.S. are getting with that polar vortex!

Zuurkool was on Tuesday’s menu

The best way to describe zuurkool is “sour mashed potatoes” (indeed, the Dutch version is generally a combination of zuurkool and potatoes).

It’s very tasty when the weather is cold out. Which is exactly what I said last year, it looks like…

Categories: Culture, Food | 2 Comments

Gevulde speculaas time (Or: Who knew almond paste was so tasty?)

Last week Marco and I made gevulde speculaas (literally “filled speculaas”) which is a type of spiced biscuit filled with almond paste. In case my parents are wondering, this is what Marco and I brought over for Thanksgiving! The actual recipe came from a box of Koopmans mix.

One possible title for this one is “The day after”

The only thing we had a bit of trouble with was the thickness of the bottom and top dough. Easy enough to roll out, but then it was too wet to transfer it to the baking dish easily.

But was it delicious? Yes it was! Especially if you add a small spoonful of whipped cream on top, with a dusting of powdered speculaas spices…

Categories: Daily Dutch living, Food | Tags: | Leave a comment

Amsterdam, where Prinsenhof and Brouwersgracht meet (Or: Puzzle time)

I recently finished a 1000-piece puzzle of Amsterdam — a present last year from Roger. And indeed, the puzzle sat in the ‘puzzle holder‘ for a good 5 months before I was able to finish it. The puzzle itself shows the corner of Amsterdam’s Prinsenhof where it meets Brouwersgracht, on King’s Day – hence all of the orange-clad characters.

Here is a close up look of the detail:

In the meantime, I’ve already started the next one. That would be a puzzle of The Hague’s Hofvijver which Marco bought for me as a Christmas present.

Categories: Everyday purchases, Friends&Family | Tags: | 2 Comments

Tandr restaurant in The Hague (Or: On a whim)

Over the weekend Marco and I went to Tandr in the city centre, not far from city hall. We’ve walked past it countless times, our interest piqued by the lovely smells from the grill wafting out the doors. I’m not sure why it took so long to step inside…

A view of the restaurant

The menu is Mesopotamian. Marco and I both chose lamb durum, with durum being the type of wheat bread the meat is wrapped in.

We ordered the meal (durum wrap, French fries and drink). The durum wrap has a small salad inside, a mixture of garlic and samba sauce, and the chosen meat (in our case, lamb).

It was really delicious! It was definitely a bit much for a lunch, but the price was reasonable, around €9 or €9.50. The menu on the website is a bit out of date in regards to the pricing, so keep that in mind. My only quibble with the wrap is that the pieces of lamb were sometimes a bit too big to eat in one bite, at least for me.

It’s always a good sign when a place includes a jar of pepper flakes on the table. Marco quickly threw some over his fries.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant, and plan on visiting it again!

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The fables of Jean de la Fontaine (Or: Exhibition at the Central Library)

From now through April 1st, there is an exhibition (De Raaf, de Vos en Kornuiten) going on at the Central Library. That translates as The raven, the fox, and his mates. The exhibition covers the work of Jean de la Fontaine, a French fabulist.

The header translates as “A lesson in behavior”. The beginning of the text reads: “A fable is a short story or poem with a moral. The intent is to both amuse you and to teach you something. You can think of the moral as the soul of the fable…”

The fables shown in the library were translated by Rob Scholten while Carlijn van Vlijmen worked on the illustrations.

“The monkey and the dolphin”
“The wolf and the dog”

As mentioned, the exhibit runs through April 1st and can be seen on the first floor of the Central Library, next to the escalators.

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Street food Vietnamese style (Or: Viet Street in The Hague)

Just before Christmas Marco, Roger and I decided to try out a new food place in The Hague. Well, Marco – being the adventurous soul he is – had already visited it during lunch one Friday and brought back the good news to us.

In late October a Vietnamese street food restaurant with the name of Viet Street opened. It sounded delicious so Roger and I quickly agreed to try it out. We decided to go there for a late lunch before seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at the movies (which was awwwwwesome).

Because we were not sure about the portion sizes we ordered some spring rolls to split as a starter, although I didn’t snag a photo of those. Marco and Roger both got Vietnamese pancakes (stuffed with shrimp and/or pork belly, if I remember correctly) with the usual added veggies on the side. You open up your pancake and throw them in as needed.

Vietnamese pancake time
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Categories: Food, The Hague | Tags: | 6 Comments

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