Patatje Kapsalon

For Unfold Amsterdam, I wrote a new installment about food  or rather: grease. You can also read it below:

Are You Finished with That?
Episode 2: Will the ‘hairdresser’ enter the Global Grease Canon?

by Steve Korver

On my first encounter with the patatje kapsalon – ‘hairdresser fries’ – I did not actually taste, or even see, the product. I was merely a witness to its after-effects. I had dropped by the practice space of some friends who usually play a rather rigorous rock n roll. But this time when I walked in, they were all lying around lost in some sort of space jam. Occasionally one of them would fart. And then apologise (they may be rock n roll but they are also polite and well brought-up boys). After the seventh apology they admitted to indulging in a kapsalonnetje from a nearby Turkish snackbar.

It was described as an aluminium box loaded up with fries, shoarma meat and topped with a couple of slices of cheese. This mortar-like material is then grilled, drowned in garlic and hot sambal sauces, and then sexed up with lettuce and some slices of cucumber and tomato. Even this layer of veg cannot disguise the fact that a kapsalonnetje is a true passion plate for those out to flirt with cardio-apocalypse. So I got excited. And as a Great Unknown, I automatically hoped that I had stumbled on a new snack sensation that, with the right marketing, could become a Global Grease Icon as identity-defining as French-Canadian poutine or German currywurst. After some googling I only got more excited. Not only did the kapsalon look disgusting, but it also comes backed with an epic creation tale.

The kapsalon was invented around 2003 in a friendly neighbourhood Rotterdam snackbar El Aviva in Delfshaven. It is said that a certain barber named Nathaniël Gomes used to drop by every lunch for his fix of fries and shoarma meat, and it evolved from there. Some members of kapsalon discussion groups claim the kapsalon was inspired by the Cape Verdean national dish cachupa. (But what exactly a kapsalon has in common with a perfectly healthy stew thingie is unclear). Kapsalon’s friendly price (more than €5 is an outrage) inspires many to call it the ultimate ‘crisis bakkie’ – a cheap and hearty way to fill your void. Others refer to it as an ‘integration snack’ since it combines different national ingredients (Dutch cheese, Turkish meat and Indonesia-inspired hot sauce).

But whatever, the righteous word of kapsalon spread. Its popularity received a jumpstart in 2008 when mobile snack stands began selling it during Carnaval in Limburg where its belly-gelling properties were quick to be appreciated by the beer-drinking masses. One assumes that a mass of converts then returned to their hometowns and on the following Friday or Saturday night ended up at their local Turkish snackbar to drunkenly harass the employees to make them that miraculous bell-gelling thingie they indulged in back in Limburg. Indeed: not all food history is pretty.

When I was in the right void-filling mood (yes, it happened on a Friday or Saturday night), I went to my favourite Turkish snackbar, Kinkerstraat’s Donorland, whose owner I know as a man who takes his job very seriously. So I was shocked when he tried to attribute the rising popularity of kapsalons to it being a healthy alternative – ‘It’s bigger than a shoarma sandwich, but smaller than a shoarma plate’. When I started spluttering about how this goes against what the national Voedingscentrum says – that it is in fact 1800 calories of unhealthy – he just shrugged and said: ‘If you really have to be healthy then just order one with falafel.’ Of course I just ate a normal shoarma-based one, but it was a learning moment. Obviously part of the fun of a kapsalontje is that you could pick, choose and combine with any sort of meat-like material – from falafel to kebab to giros to fill in the void

And this is good news. Flexibility and diversity is very important for any local snack sensation that wants to cross over and enter Global Grease Consciousness. These characteristics make it appeal to not only humanity’s hunger for grease but its need to get freestyley. For example, in Canada, you now see every manner of designer poutine – from where the fries are replaced with sweet potato, or where the gravy actually resembles something organic. And in Germany, you can score curryworst embedded with gold leaf, which really comes to life when you wash it back with champagne. (I could digress here about why the posh have to always appropriate working-class snacks, but I won’t.)

Meanwhile I just started to feel more connected to Amsterdam as I biked around and started to notice all these fresh signs advertising ‘Yes we are also serving kapsalon!’ The other day in Amsterdam Noord, I spotted a sign that advertised every manner of kapsalon, including a Kapsalon Viagra. I am now confident that this very special dish has entered its ‘next level’ of evolution and that it is now inevitable that the mighty kapsalon will eventually enter the Global Grease Canon.

Jump on the bandwagon while it’s still fresh.

See previous posting for my first installment of my food/Amsterdam series. I’ve also written about the food/grease equation HERE, HERE and HERE.

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Posted in Uncategorized 13 years, 5 months ago at 12:06 pm.

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