Food can function as a bonding experience for people from different corners of the world and introduce them to diverse cultures. Witness, for example, someone trying the famously complex bouquet of flavours in Dutch liqourice (drop). A main complaint of internationals is that one of the few things they miss while living in the Netherlands is a taste of their home culture’s food. With that in mind, The Northern Times headed out to the best shops where people can find flavours and products that remind them of home or discover a new favourite specialty.
Nazar opened its doors 16 years ago when Serkan Alan, a second-generation immigrant born and raised in Groningen, decided to sell meat. More specifically “Serkan wanted to open a halal [shop] because there wasn’t one at that time,” says Ali, an employee.
However, soon “he started bringing in more products,” says Ali. Not much later, Alan’s meat shop would transform into a supermarket where “you can find products from Turkey, Asia, India, and Greece,” that clients from different nationalities cannot find anywhere else, explains Ali. On Nazar’s shelves, you can find a large variety of meat of almost all kinds, vegetables, traditional bread from Turkey and other countries, vine leaves and many other products.
Nazar: Boterdiep 49, Groningen.
Malgorzata Tuinhof moved from Poland to Groningen in 1998. Her integration to the new environment and culture was not easy. Because she didn’t speak Dutch, she couldn’t find a job and “that’s when I got the idea to open a Polish shop, the first in Groningen,” she says.
Tuinhof’s goal was to make the Polish community of Groningen and of the areas around the city happy with products from home.
The shop opened in 2012 and since then, not only Polish people but also Dutch, Russian, Lithuanian and Chinese customers have found their way to Polski Smak. “Chinese people read in magazines that the Polish sausage is the tastiest and they want to try it,” says Joana Polak, who works at Polski Smak. Apart from the famous sausage, the most popular delicacies are beer, bread, mayonnaise, white cottage cheese and (of course) Polish sweets.
Polski Smak: Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 84, Groningen.
Toko Melati was opened in Groningen 47 years ago by Bernard Majoor. “The shop started only by selling basics and then immigrants from Indonesia or China started asking for specific products that they couldn’t find in the Netherlands,” says Ricky Weiss, who has worked in the shop for 29 years. The shop grew in prominence as clients from the Netherlands, Thailand, Surinam, and Vietnam also started coming to them looking for products they had not managed to find elsewhere in the country.
At Toko Melati, you can find a large variety of products such as fresh herbs, sereh and pandan leaf, fruits, vegetables, syrups, baking mixes, Chinese wine and more.
Toko Melati: Gedempte Zuiderdiep 126, Groningen.
Russian specialties Vyatka
Olga Chamova followed her heart when she moved to the Netherlands to be with husband. “When I moved in Groningen, I needed to find myself, and I started the shop as a hobby that grew into a profitable business,” Chamova says. The shop has been selling Russian goodies for the last 17 years. “There wasn’t a Russian shop in Groningen, and [there were] loads of Russian people,” she explains. Chamova decided to start small, but in a couple of years, the interest of the clients that kept coming asking for specific products led her to expand her offerings.
The majority of clients are Dutch people and internationals from Russia, or from countries that made up the former Yugoslavia, and Romania. “I always try to find the products people ask for, to make them smile,” Chamova says.
She gets her products from hostels and imports a part of the drinks and the alcohol she sells herself. The bestsellers of the shop are a type of cheese called tvorog, which is similar to kwark but with a different flavour, salty pickles without vinegar, Russian dumplings and drinks.
Russian specialties Vyatka: Nieuweweg 19, Groningen.
Toko Saigon didn’t start as a shop. Thien Phan’s father, who moved with his sister from Vietnam to the Netherlands, began delivering products with his minivan to Vietnamese and Chinese people 30 years ago. After 4 years, he opened a shop in Zwolle, and 18 years ago, Toko Saigon in Leeuwarden was born- explains Thien Phan, the current owner.
At Toko Saigon, you can find a large variety of soy sauces, herbs, instant noodles, Japanese products, and even the famously foul-smelling but sweet-tasting durian.
The goal of Toko Saigon is to take care of the needs of international minorities living in the area. “In a normal supermarket, the client base is Dutch people, but we look to the smaller, ethnic communities for customers, such as Vietnamese, Indonesian, Korean, Chinese, and of course Dutch people,” Thien Phan says. “Many Dutch people go on holidays to Asia, and they want to re-experience their holiday again, and they come asking for products,” he says. Because customers are experimenting more with Asian food and they know it is affordable, demand is high.
Toko Saigon: Amelandsstraat 18, Leeuwarden.
Toko Anadolu is the longest existing toko in Leeuwarden. It first opened its doors in 1975 when a family of Turkish immigrants decided to introduce a variety of Eastern products to the region. “It’s a family business,” says Yildiz Korkmali, one of the owners.
Toko Anadolu is well known for its fresh products that mostly come from Turkey. On its shelves, you can find olives, feta cheese, vegetables, fruit, pastries, yogurt, puff pastries (try the spinach and feta borek), various drinks, and world famous Turkish baked goods.
In Anadolu, you will find customers from a range of backgrounds, such as Dutch, Turkish, Syrian and Greek, among others.
Toko Anadolu: Nieuwe Oosterstraat 4, Leeuwarden.
Have we missed something? Where do you get non-Dutch treats? Let us know in the comments or on social media.