The Netherlands is not known for its outlandish food. You won’t be finding anything that comes remotely as strange as Finnish rotten shark, or squid here. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as good Dutch food. I’m not going to lie, I’ve eaten some pretty bizarre things in my time. From ostrich eggs to crocodile steaks, from locusts to chocolate ants, I’ve had a pretty crazy journey on my way to find some taste sensations. But what the Netherlands lacks in the bizarre, they make up in the fantastic. Here is some good Dutch food that’ll make your taste buds water.
The Basics of Good Dutch Food
The Dutch love fish. Despite what CBS will try to tell you, we’ve more or less needed to love fish, more of a counter measure against the constant ebb and flow of the tides which constantly threaten us. I had eaten seafood before I came to the Netherlands, but I had never seen anything like Scheveningen Harbour during vlaggetjesdag. Crates filled with fresh raw fish, the smell is intoxicating. These fish are so distinct from other types of herring, they even have their own title: Hollandse nieuwe. Only fish caught between the months of May and July have the right to this title, which makes it about as regal as fish can get.
Almost as impressive as the sheer load of fish is the speed and precision of the fishmongers working the stands. These guys will gut and clean a herring in about two seconds. I’ve seen them multi-task between taking orders, gutting fish, and handling money. No doubt we’ve all tried sushi, or other variants of raw fish, but the Dutch need nothing other than a few chopped onions, a bun, and the fish itself. In most cases, they don’t even need the bun or onion! They just straight up dunk the fish down their gullet, and move on to the next round, secured in the knowledge that a delicious treat has just been eaten.
I’ve known people who couldn’t take the sight, and would refuse to eat this culinary experience. My advice is this: don’t think too hard, and just go for it! It’s as healthy as it is tasty, and there’s nothing quite like it. Though simple, I believe it still qualifies for the title of good Dutch food. However, perhaps it’s not to your liking. Maybe something a bit more unhealthy will be what you’re after. For this, who can deny the age-old classic of bitterballen?
Usually eaten with a generous helping of mustard, bitterballen are my personal favourite of the junk food realm. Bitterballen, like their taller, more oblong cousin the Croquette, are little fried balls of pasteurised meat.
This does not immediately sound delicious, but if you took everything on face value, you’d only be eating potatoes and rice. What makes bitterballen great is not what they are, but rather where and how they are consumed. To give you a hint, they get their name from a type of beer, bitter. Essentially, the Dutch created food that is only eaten when you’re getting drunk. I think this speaks volumes about dutch drinking culture. The food they designed to be eaten while drinking beer is not something designed to make you look like a hard man. It’s simply designed to be gezellig, great for sharing, and to compliment the taste of your preferred alcoholic beverage.
Perhaps Savoury Isn’t Your Style
Maybe you’re not into consuming a whole raw fish, or you don’t enjoy eating while drinking. Taste is entirely personal, so maybe you’re after something else that will qualify as good Dutch food. Maybe you’ve got yourself a sweet tooth.
If this is the case, look no further than the stroopwafel. This is where it gets hardcore.
The Dutch are known for their frugal nature, and the creation of this delicacy is no different. In the way back when of 1784, a baker decided to save on some cash by taking leftover breadcrumbs and sweetening the deal with syrup. Fast forward 232 years, and you’ve got yourself probably the most famous good Dutch food we’ve got. Deliciously sweet, and horribly moreish, these things have taken off big time. You can find them in various supermarkets across the world, though nothing quite compares to the fresh product. I have many foreign friends who decided to come over to the Netherlands just once. After giving them one fresh stroopwafel, I’ve made friends for life as they keep coming back for more. (But if you don’t have the possibility to score fresh ones, the ones by Caramel Syrup Waffles are the best around)
Well, after all of this food, I’ve gotten hungry. Perhaps I’ve got a strong stomach for the strange stuff, but Dutch food has its own quirks and personality that makes it no worse than anything else out there. What I like about these three examples are just how much insight these cultural cuisines can tell you about classical Dutch values. Even though we haven’t even scratched the surface of Dutch food (what? no drop!? what about speculaas? You haven’t even mentioned hagelslag!) If you’ve also gotten the munchies, be on the look out for some of these fantastic food types. Now excuse me; it’s time to eat some ghost peppers.