Nom, nom, nom … that is the perpetual background score of my day so naturally when I arrived in the Netherlands, my first thought was: Dutch food!
I won’t lie, I was quite disappointed when I was told that there is no real ‘Dutch cuisine’ (the Dutchies agreed). BUT, hail the foodie in me, I knew I wasn’t going to go down easily. Hence, I decided to set on my own little adventure into the world of Dutch delicacies where I have already found some treasures. Lekker! and heel lekker! for sure!
Stroopwafel: the syrup sandwich
Meet the stroopwafel – arguably the most popular Dutch snack. The stroopwafel is a thin-wafer biscuit made by adjoining layers of baked dough, with a caramel filling in the middle. Although originally from Gouda, this syrupy miracle can be found all over the world now.
It’s available in several flavours, right from chocolate to honey, a must-try is the classic version – the humble caramel. Doesn’t matter how you eat it, hot or cold, you’d be sure to love it.
ProTip: To experience the stroopwafel at its best, enjoy it with a hot cuppa koffie or thee.
Poffertjes: baby pancakes
Can we start with how adorable poffertjes look? Poffertjes are a tinier and fluffier version of the pancake. You’d find numerous outdoor stalls selling these with a variety of toppings. The classic version includes powdered sugar and butter, but feel free to add to the tastiness (and calories) by putting on some whipped cream, syrup and strawberries!
ProTip: Add Nutella to the classic combination to reach the seventh heaven.
I was quite fascinated by these since all that I was ever asked in relation to Dutch food was, ‘have you tried bitterballen yet?’ I finally did. And I wasn’t disappointed. Bitterballen are the favourite Dutch snack, found in almost every nook and corner of the country. Filled with soft (almost liquid) meat goodness inside, coated with bread crumbs and deep-fried — what is there not to like? Best served with een biertje!
ProTip: try bitterballen with some mustard and kopstootjes (a must-have Dutch drink).
Friet/Patat: French fries on steroids
We all know and love the humble French fries. Enter, friet or patat. Thicker than normal fries, the Dutch version has them with raw chopped onions and mayonnaise, topped with peanut sauce. The combination is known as a patatje oorlog or fries at war, accurately depicting the state of the plate. By the way, did you know there is also a war on how to call fries? The north of Holland (including Rotterdam) says patat whereas the south (and Belgium) calls them friet.
ProTip: Ask for patat met to order like a Dutchie, and you’ll receive the ever-popular fries with mayonnaise.
Outside of the Netherlands kroket is known as the humble croquette, but it’s quite a superstar here. It is extremely similar to the bitterballen except for the shape. Originally, krokets are made from ragout but my personal favourite is the kaaskroket, filled with cheese. Hey, no judgements okay? Who doesn’t like fried cheese? You can eat a kroket on its own or have it in a sandwich or burger with mustard on the side.
ProTip: These are quite hot inside so be careful with the first bite!
Oliebollen: Dutch doughnuts
A winter tradition! By custom, oliebollen are meant to be served on New Year’s Eve, however, come December, you’d discover several stalls popping up. The literal translation of “oil ball” does some sweet justice to the dish as oliebollen are essentially deep-fried balls of dough. If you add raisins or currants to the good old oliebol, you get the krentenbol! For maximum effect, eat these with powdered sugar and bare hands.
ProTip: Don’t have any human interaction before wiping your face, nose, shoulder, scarf thoroughly, the powdered sugar is cheeky (been there, done that).
Kruidnoten & Pepernoten: mini cookies
Pepernoten which literally translates to ‘pepper nuts’ is another Dutch Sinterklaas and Kerstmas tradition. With a tint of spice and loads of crunch, these have gotten me hooked since the day I first tried them. I prefer the ones with chocolate, but you can find a crazy variety of flavours, from cappuccino to tajine. An old Dutch custom is to throw handfuls of pepernoten through the room for the children to find — I now know why the children would be so excited to eat off the floor!
ProTip: To get in the complete holiday spirit, have these with the chocolate letters.
Kapsalon: grease Gatsby
The Dutch kapsalon is a recent invention. Created in 2003 in Rotterdam, the dish consists of a thick bottom of french fries, topped with shawarma, layered with slices of Gouda cheese and heated in an oven until the cheese becomes a beautiful oozy mess — all in a disposable takeaway box. Top it up with a layer of shredded lettuce, garlic sauce and sambal and you are good to go!
Kapsalon in Dutch means “hairdressing salon”, referring to one of the inventors of the dish who was a hairdresser (talk about a killer cut!)
ProTip: Order a kapsalon to finish a great night of beers (although you may not remember it in the morning).
Bread with peanut butter & sambal
A.K.A: the hidden gem of Dutch food
Google or Wikipedia can’t reveal this secret to you; you have to be friends with Dutchies. Let me introduce the amazing combination of sambal and pindakaas (peanut butter). While sambal is a spicy chilli paste of Indonesian origin which made its way to Holland through the Javanese and Surinamese population, peanut butter is well…peanut butter. Take a piece of bread, coat it with well with peanut butter and top it up with sambal according to taste and voila! You have a slice of heaven.
ProTip: Order matters — always put the peanut butter first, followed by the sambal.
Hagelslag: chocolate for breakfast
Don’t get confused if your boss gifts this to you on your first day of job (like I was), instead, say hi to a Dutch tradition! Hagelslag are the Dutch’s answer to sprinkles — only these are nothing like sprinkles. You would normally associate sprinkles with children but not in the Netherlands, where it is normal for adults to eat this at breakfast or lunch.
Hagelslag also comes in different varieties, chocolate, fruit and aniseed being the most popular. Grab a Dutch beschuit (twice baked round toast), add some butter (so that the sprinkles stick) and embellish with some hagelslag.
ProTip: Know a Dutchie with a newborn? Gift some aniseed gestampte muisjes, the cousin of hagelslag, in either pink (for a girl) or blue (for a boy) for them to serve their guests with — an important Dutch tradition.
Stamppot: the mashed meal
It cannot get more Dutch than the stamppot. Having originated sometime in the 1600s, the stamppot is a dish steeped in tradition. Also known as the ‘winter dish’, stamppot is made from a combination of potatoes mashed with one or several vegetables.
True to the Dutch form, you can have several variants here as well: andijviestamppot (endive mashed with potatoes), zuurkoolstamppot (sauerkraut mashed with potatoes) or the boerenkoolstamppot (cabbage mixed with mashed potatoes), the list goes on…
ProTip: Order some hot stamppot with the traditional rookworst. What’s rookworst? Keep reading!
Rookworst: smoked horseshoe sausage
The rookworst or the smoked sausage is made by mixing ground meat with spices and salt and stuffing it into a casing. The butcher then smokes it in a smoke cabinet, ensuring the shelf life of the sausage and gave it the typical taste. The end result? A horseshoe-shaped sausage with a golden yellow hue.
There are two types of rookworst: Gelderse and raw. The Gelderse is pre-cooked and sold vacuum-packed, so it can simply be reheated for consumption, while the raw variety should be cooked. Best served with a pitting hot dish of stamppot!
ProTip: Try the HEMA rookworst – it’s surprisingly delicious!
Tompouce: the Dutch baklava
The tompouce or tompoes is a rectangular desert, with two layers of puff pastry, filled with sweet pastry cream and topped with pink or white icing. The tompouce is not an easy dessert to conquer, inspiring several amusing articles on ‘Hoe eet je een tompoes?’ (How do you eat a tompoes?)
Usually served with koffie or thee, the pastry was created by a baker from Amsterdam, whose inspiration was a dwarf from an American circus visiting the Netherlands between 1844 and 1845!
#ProTip: Make sure to try the tompouce on Koningsdag (King’s Day) or when the Dutch national team participates in the European Championship or World Cup — the top layer becomes orange.
What’s your favourite Dutch food dish? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Takeaway/Wikimedia Commons
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in February 2020, and was fully updated in October 2020 for your reading pleasure.