Dutch cuisine may not be as famous as some of its European counterparts but nevertheless there are some fantastic Dutch foods not to be missed.
Let’s start with some traditional Dutch savoury snacks, usually available to eat as street food…
Raw Herring or ‘Hollandse Niewe Haring’
Famously Dutch and very traditional is the eating of raw herring ‘Hollandse Niewe Haring’, which should definitely be tried at least once! The term ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’ should only apply if the fish are caught between May and July. According to tradition, the freshly caught herring are gutted on-board the fishing boats, leaving only the pancreas in the fish. The pancreas acts as a natural preserver so the brine they are kept n required less salt. Available from many shops and herring stalls throughout Holland, the raw herring is usually served with chopped onions and sometimes pickles and can be eaten with our without bread. Many stalls will chop the herring up into manageable bit sized pieces or serve it in a sandwich called broodje haring. However if you want to experience this Dutch speciality the traditional way, hold the herring by the tail, throw your head back and dunk the herring into your moth head first!
Rookworst is a smoked sausage and another traditional Dutch food. Its fame has reached such heights in the convenience store HEMA that they now produce toys and décor items emblazoned with this famous sausage. The sausages today are rarely smoked, instead they are produced on mass in factories where smoke flavour is added. If you’re lucky enough to find real smoked Rookworst (at some organic markets or butchers) be sure to give it a try, it really is delicious!
Are savoury, spherical shaped, crispy breadcrumb coated balls that are filled with a mixture of chopped beef, beef stock, flour, butter, herbs and spices. They are usually served with mustard for dipping. They are a great accompaniment to a round of beers and many bars and cafes will serve them. Just be careful when you bite into them as the centre is usually scolding hot! The best traditional bitterballen is said to be found at the Grandcafe Luxembourg in Amsterdam. However some establishments have modernised the bitterballen and to great effect, with a whole range of fillings from Goats cheese to chorizo. Visit the De Ballenbar at De Foodhallen in Amsterdam for a great variety of bitterballen. If you’re a vegetarian, don’t feel left out as vegetarian bitterballen can now be found quite easily.
Have a crisp cookie outside and a soft melt-in-the-mouth inside filled with almond paste.
Is a chunky apple pie flavoured with cinnamon and served hot in enormous wedges, often with whipped cream on the side.
Are soft cakes with almond paste in the middle and dipped in chocolate at both ends.
Are similar in texture to gingerbread but are flavoured with cinnamon.
Have become a famous Dutch export and it’s not hard to see why. All butter wafers are sandwiched together by sticky caramel and are particularly good when placed over the top of a hot cup of coffee to warm slightly.
Not usually available in bakeries or patisseries but often served at markets and as a street food, are delicious Poffertjes. Our best description is that they are simply divine fluffly little pancake pillows! Look for cast iron pans rather than visiting a food truck as sometimes these can be microwaved versions which aren’t nearly as nice. Traditionally served with a good dusting of icing sugar and a chunk of butter but are equally good with a more modern topping like Nutella.
The Netherlands can boast a long history of cheese making and in tourist hot spots like Amsterdam you never seem to be far away from a cheese shop. Most Dutch cheeses are pale yellow in colour with mild flavours. The most famous is Gouda where different flavours can be achieved with varying stages of maturity; generally speaking the older the cheese the stronger the flavour and crumblier the texture. The Dutch tend to eat Gouda in slices rather than chunks using a cheese slicer or Kaasschaaf. Edam is another famous Dutch cheese however it isn’t actually eaten much in the Netherlands and is preferred abroad. Slightly creamier than Gouda with a semi soft, bouncy texture, it’s easy to spot thanks to its red wax coating.
The Netherlands grow and produce a great range of vegetables, mushrooms and cheeses and have fantastic fresh food markets in most towns and cities. Take a look at the blog below for a list of our favourite markets in Amsterdam, including the organic Boerenmarkt which has some delicious food on offer.