The frikandel is perhaps the most contentious of Dutch foods. It is both widely loved and widely hated, but what the frick is it?
Even the history of the frikandel is contentious. Some would argue that it was invented in Dordrecht in the year 1954 by a man called Gerrit De Vries. De Vries’ frikandel was essentially a meatball — but cylindrical. However, others would claim it was invented in Deurne in the year 1958 by a man called Jan Bekkers, who would later coin the appetising word frikandel.
Regardless of who created the frikandel, the legacy lives on and it has become a staple in Dutch cuisine, whether we like it or not.
So what is a frikandel?
You could describe the frikandel as a long, cylindrical attempt at a meat stick. It’s classically encountered either in the nip, or dressed up as a frikandelbroodje or a frikandel speciaal.
A frikandelbroodje is like a sausage roll with a bit of curry sauce in the pastry and a frikandel speciaal is a bread roll with onions and curry sauce (I guess the onions make it special??)
This Dutch snack has a notorious reputation. This is understandable, given that as soon as you ask the simple question “what is it?” people already struggle to find the answer. Here are some reasons as to why some hesitate to take a bite.
What’s in a frikandel?
The frikandel is essentially a long skinless sausage or as Wikipedia puts it “a cylindrical, chewy, skinless, dark coloured, sausage-like meat product” … mmmmm, delicious!
However, this doesn’t mean it consists purely of one specific meat. Indeed, you could say the frikandel is a hybrid meat product, although in this case, its hybridity does not necessitate superiority in the sausage kingdom.
Enjoying a traditional Dutch meal. The recipe for this ‘frikandelbroodje’ was handed down to me by my late grandmother. Many Dutch people wake up extra early on Saturday to make this treat for their families. pic.twitter.com/CDII6Fzmxv
— NLers: Sarah (@Netherlanders) July 28, 2018
What meat you’re eating is never certain. All we can say is that it’s probably a bit of everything. The usual combination is pork, chicken and beef, with chicken making up the highest proportion.
Some are understandably put off by claims that some manufacturers include horse meat and cow udders in the combination. However, it has been reported that horse meat is simply too expensive for the frikandel (what that means for the cow udders though… is uncertain.) This has led to many people shunning the poor frikandel.
To add to the ambiguity, the meat used is mechanically separated meat (MSM), otherwise known as “white slime” — double mmmm. The creation of MSM involves the grinding up of carcasses from which most of the meat has already been removed. So, you could describe the frikandel as the Frankenstein of sausages.
Luckily, if you’re craving a frikandel the white slime version can now be avoided. Recent years have seen the addition of vegetarian and vegan frikandels to the market. They’re typically made of grains and soy, and they’re delicious!
The frikandel: a Dutch treasure (whether they like it or not)
Any attempt at describing the frikandel in full makes it sound quite unappetising so for now, let me just talk about how much of a Dutch treasure this snack has proven to be.
When asked, our readers responded with a variety of emotion towards this sausage. Regardless of whether or not the frikandel should be shunned or bowed to, its presence is undeniably popular in the Netherlands.
Statistics show that the Dutch hold frikandelen close to their heart, eating over 600 million per year. That means the average Dutchie is downing 35 frikandelen every 12 months.
I would like to clarify that my annual average was one back in 2018, and it has been less than one ever since. However, some colleagues have admitted that they may have managed to consume the annual average over long, boozy weekends in their youth.
The stats don’t lie though, so even if the frikandel hasn’t infiltrated your taste buds, it has certainly infiltrated Dutch society. Its presence can be found even in popular culture, just check out this song!
Interesting toppings and variants of the frikandel
There have been many interesting attempts to alter the standard frikandel — either with toppings or by altering the frikandel’s composition altogether.
Some matches were simply not made to be, such as the chocolate frikandel, the orange frikandel and the beer frikandel. But some arose victorious from the lab.
One reason why I am personally at odds with the frikandel is the fact that people think apple sauce (or appelmoes as you Dutchies call it) is an agreeable condiment. And while I could certainly dedicate this entire article to a rant on the matter, there are further offences to be discussed.
For example, one can enjoy the loempidel, a mix between a frikandel and a loempia. A loempia is an Indonesian version of the chinese spring roll. It’s larger and filled with more meat (no wonder the Dutch love it!)
Dames en heren ik presenteer de Loempidel! Precies wat je er van verwacht.👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/pDNWf3ugYk
— Jeroen van Zwam (@jeroentjuhh8) August 26, 2019
In this case, the frikandel is wrapped in loempia pastry that is filled with a sweet sauce. Perhaps you could say the loempidel is a colonised loempia.
The frikandel XXL
If you simply can’t get enough of the frikandel do not fret. The frikandel XXL may be perfect for you. Weighing in at 250g per serving, you certainly won’t go hungry. The only issue you may face is finding a sufficiently long broodje to go with it.
If you are a bit of a food snob and would never allow the frikandel speciaal in all its brightly coloured curry-sauced-onionyness to pass your lips, then the pesto frikandel may be more to your liking.
This fancy number swaps out the curry sauce and onion for a pesto mayonnaise with pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Turns out the frikandel is not only sustainable, but it can also be suitably gentrified.
And whatever the hell this is
In Bredene hebben we een frituur met als suggestie: de discodel 🥳🤪. pic.twitter.com/FqnfIUJNLb
— Ushi (@Ushi_Lin) March 3, 2020
A Dutch sport: The frikandel eating contest
There are many elements of Dutch culture that confuse me, but the one cultural phenomenon that has both disgusted and amazed me is that of the frikandel eating contest.
Competitors sit at a long table, shoulder to shoulder, and shove frikandels into their mouths. It’s a serious sport (they have cheerleaders and all!) and while you may grimace throughout, you can understand why the endeavour attracts such an audience.
The record for the most frikandelen eaten in an hour is held by Sjonnie Noordeinde of Delft, who ate a staggering 47 frikandelen in one hour. If this seems like a relatively low number to you, then I suggest you head out and try one. That rubbery, chewy texture doesn’t go down so quickly, does it?
Check out the video above. Even if you don’t find the idea strangely entertaining, watch it for educational purposes, it’s really quite the anthropological study.
Oh the Frikandel, we really don’t know how to feel about it. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
Feature Image: Guusbosman/Wikimedia Commons
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2020, and was fully updated in February 2021 for your reading pleasure.