Bitterballenbruid: The authentic Dutch food challenge
You haven't truly experienced the Netherlands until you've crossed off these top 22 Dutch foods – they're all (mostly) 'lekker'.
Get your taste buds ready to sample some traditional Dutch food. To experience the Netherlands in an authentic way, you have to try traditional Dutch cuisines and specialties. Here are the top 22 Dutch foods you have to try.
How do you measure up against the Dutch food challenge? Test yourself with this list of top authentic Dutch foods.
1. Haring (Hollandse Nieuwe)
Herring isn’t that weird but the Dutch like to eat it raw (see top right image). To eat it the traditional way, tip your head back, grab the fish by the tail and bite upwards. It's completely unglamorous but fun. If this doesn’t appeal to you, it can also be eaten in a bun, with or without optional extras such as finely chopped onion and sliced gherkins. If eaten this way, it’s called a broodje haring.
Herring is available all-year round but if the fish is caught between May and July, it's referred to as Hollandse Nieuwe. The herring season starts every year with the traditional auction of the first tub of Nieuwe Haring; the most renown herring festival is Vlaggetjesdag or ‘flag day’ in Scheveningen. Afterwards, herring may be sold everywhere and ‘herring feasts’ are organised in many towns and cities.
A stroopwafel is made of two thin waffles with a caramel-like stroop (syrup) filling in the middle. This is Holland’s most famous pastry for a reason.
The Dutch love licorice, so much that they eat on average 2kg per person, per year. That’s (unsurprisingly) more than any other country in the world.
A word of warning: they also think it’s a funny game to try and feed it to unsuspecting foreigners. Kijk uit! (Watch out!)
This is my nemesis. Frikandel does, however, belong on this list because it is very popular in the Netherlands and you should try everything once.
A frikandel is a long, thin, skinless, dark-coloured meat sausage, usually eaten warm. It is often served with curry ketchup or mayonnaise, though some eat it with tomato ketchup, mustard or even apple sauce.
Frikandellen creation by a Dutch cook
5. Friet / Frieten / Patat / Patatje
The Dutch equivalent of chips. These are all names for the same thing, depending on where in the Netherlands you live. There are also disagreements about what they’re called with different combinations of toppings, but it goes like this:
- Friet of patat met mayo: chips with mayonnaise.
- Patat met satésaus: chips with peanut sauce.
- Patatje oorlog: chips with a combination of peanut saté sauce, mayo and onions.
- Patat speciaal: chips with curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onion.
Oliebollen literally means 'oil spheres'. Dutch people are very passionate about oliebollen – I even got in trouble on a previous post for saying they’re 'basically doughnuts' – and will defend them to within an inch of their life.
The dough is made of flour, eggs, yeast, salt, milk, baking powder and usually sultanas or raisins. They’re sprinkled with icing sugar. Oliebollen are traditionally eaten at New Year but there are oliebollen stands around for the whole festive period (so basically the whole of December).
These sweet little treats are popular in winter and you will often see dedicated poffertje stalls and stands. Poffertjes are small, fluffy pancakes, served with powdered sugar, butter and sometimes syrup.
Deep fried pieces of fish is – I guess – Holland’s answer to fish and chips (if ordered with een portie patat). Originally, cod cheeks were used for kibbeling but due to high prices of cod, today, you might be served off-cuts of cod or possibly even hake, pollock or whiting.
The literal meaning is 'mash pot'. Stamppot consists of (lumpy) mashed potato with vegetables of your choice thrown in. Popular vegetable choices include sauerkraut, spinach, swede, carrot, onion and kale. Stamppot is often served with rookworst (smoked sausage) and/or bacon lardons. If stamppot is served with kale it's known as boerenkool.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also get gravy with your dish. Make a small hole in your mashed vegetables and fill it with gravy. This is known in Dutch as a kuiltje jus (little gravy pit).
These are sprinkles, as we call them in England. They're not that weird on top of your ice cream but if you really want to fit in, the Dutch eat this on bread, with butter, for breakfast – give it a go.
11. Erwtensoep (or Snert)
This is pea soup, typically made from dried peas, such as split peas. A bit like English pea soup but better!
Erwtensoep / Speculaas
This spiced shortcrust biscuit is served around Sinterklaas time. Dutch people go wild for it. You can also get spreadable versions, with a peanut butter kind of consistency.
13. Filet Americain
This has a bit of a Marmite reputation: you either love it or hate it. Personally, I love the stuff.
It’s like a steak tartare but in spread form – a sandwich spread, if you will. Normally served raw on bread with onion, and if you’re feeling a bit fancy, add mayonnaise and a hard boiled egg.
Apple pie is an English thing, dating back hundreds of years but it’s also popular with the Dutch, Swedes and of course the Americans. Dutch appeltaart (apple tart) is hugely popular and probably a different variation of what you’ve had at home.
This dish is one of my partner's absolute favourites. Vlammetjes translate to ‘little flames’. It is spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried, normally served with sweet chilli sauce.
Dutch pancakes are much larger and thinner than American or Scotch pancakes. They can come sweet or savoury and are offered with a gazillion topping options.
Pannenkoeken are so popular here that there are tons of dedicated pancake restaurants throughout the Netherlands. The only choice you need to make is what to put on it.
Originally made of ox meat, hence the name, this raw beef sausage originated in Amsterdam and is often served with Amsterdamse uitjes (Amsterdam onions), which are onions pickled with turmeric or saffron to give them a yellow colouring.
Try this after the pub, when you’ve had a belly full of beer. Kapsalon is made of chips, kebab meat or shawarma with cheese, normally Gouda. It is often served with a dressed salad, garlic sauce and hot sauce or sambal. Kapsalon also means hairdresser or hairdressing salon, after its creator — a hairdresser from Rotterdam!
Similar to bitterballen but cylindrical in shape. They come in a variety of fillings: beef, pork, satay sauce (peanut sauce), vegetable, potato and prawn. So make sure you know what you’re getting as they all look the same. Sold almost anywhere, in supermarkets, restaurants, snack bars and even in McDonald’s.
Kalfsvleeskroket, Dutch croquette containing veal
The Dutch are famous for their cheese because, obviously, it’s amazing. The best known is Gouda, followed by Edam and Leerdammer (the trademarked name, thought it's often called Maasdam).
You’ll struggle not to eat cheese in the Netherlands. The best places to sample different cheeses are specialist cheese shops, or alternatively, most pubs will have cheese on their bar snack menu. Go for the oude kaas (literally: old cheese).
21. Smeerkaas sambal
I can’t let the occasion pass without mentioning my personal favourite spread in the Netherlands: spread cheese with sambal, a hot Indonesian sauce made from chilli peppers. It’s amazing.
And last but certainly not least, I can’t miss these precious deep-fried balls of heaven. They are the best borrelhapje (bar snack) imaginable.
Anything missing from this list? What’s your favourite Dutch food?
Hayley (aka Bitterballenbruid) is 32 and lives in Hilversum, the Netherlands, with her Dutch husband and their cat called Paris (no, she didn’t name her – long story). Her blog Bitterballenbruid is about living in het Gooi, eating too many bitterballen, getting married in Holland, learning how to be Dutch, and dealing with the language. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her Instagram.
Photo credits: Misty (oliebollen), Omid Tavallai (stamppot), MartinD (Kapsalon), Takeaway via Wikimedia Commons (stroopwafels, filet American, erwtensoep, frikandellen, ossenworst), Kham Tran www.khamtran.com via Wikimedia Commons (kroketten), Mira Pangkey (Poffertjes), © Bitterballenbruid (Vlammetjes, Bitterballen).
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