The frikandel is perhaps the most contentious of Dutch foods. It’s both widely loved and widely hated, but what the frick is it?
Even the history of the frikandel is contentious. Some argue that it was invented in Dordrecht in 1954 by a man called Gerrit De Vries. De Vries’ frikandel was essentially a meatball — but cylindrical.
However, others claim it was invented in Deurne in 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 on its own or dressed up as a frikandelbroodje or a frikandel special.
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. That’s understandable, given that as soon as you ask the simple question, “what is it?” people already struggle to find the answer. Here are just a few reasons why some hesitate to take a bite. 👀
What’s in a frikandel?
The frikandel is essentially a long, skinless sausage or “a cylindrical, chewy, skinless, dark-coloured, sausage-like meat product” … delicious! However, this doesn’t mean it consists purely of one specific meat. Indeed, you could say the frikandel is a hybrid meat product.
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.
Many are understandably put off by claims that some manufacturers include horse meat and cow udders in the combination.🤢
However, apparently, 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” — delicious. 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, you don’t have to subject yourself to the white slime! Recent years have seen the addition of vegetarian and vegan frikandel to the market. They’re typically made of soy protein and grains, and they taste just the same!
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 us just talk about how much of a Dutch treasure this snack has proven to be.
When asked, our readers responded with a variety of emotions towards this sausage. Whether or not you agree that the frikandel should be shunned or bowed to, its presence is undeniably popular in the Netherlands.
Statistics show that the Dutch hold frikandellen close to their heart, eating over 600 million per year. That means the average Dutchie is downing 35 frikandellen 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, so even if the frikandel hasn’t infiltrated your taste buds, it has certainly infiltrated Dutch society. It’s even found in pop culture references; 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 pairings were simply never going to work, 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 acceptable addition. And while I could certainly dedicate an entire article to a rant about this, there are further offences that need 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!)
In this case, the frikandel is wrapped in loempia pastry and filled with a sweet sauce.
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’re a bit of a food snob and would never allow the frikandel speciaal in all its brightly coloured curry-sauced oniony-ness 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. It turns out the frikandel is not only sustainable, but it can also be suitably gentrified.
And whatever this is…
A Dutch sport: 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 frikandelen 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.
Sjonnie Noordeinde of Delft holds the record for the most frikandellen eaten in an hour. He ate a staggering 47 frikandellen in one hour. If this seems like a relatively low number to you, 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 an 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.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2021, and was fully updated in October 2022 for your reading pleasure.