It’s pressed, fried and often sold in vending machines. We’re talking Dutch fast food — what many expats claim is anything but lekker.
Bamiblok, kroket, sitostick, pikanto, nasibal, smulrol. These are the melodious names of Dutch fast food. Not that any non-Dutch person with the slightest culinary education would ever suspect that the things are edible when looking at them. They simply don’t appear to be.
Usually, they’re cylindrical, triangular or oblong objects that have been deep-fried beyond recognition. Although their shapes promise infinite variety, they often are the same thing pressed in different moulds: a bamischijf consists of pressed noodles in the shape of a disc, a bamiblok consists of pressed noodles in the shape of a block, a bamirol consists of pressed noodles in the shape of a roll and a bamibal – surprise, surprise – consists of pressed noodles in the shape of a ball.
The more imaginative among these products, which look as if somebody scraped them out of the sole of his shoe after a walk on the beach, are called frikandel, and apparently contain not only carbohydrates, but also traces of meat. Kroket, the most wide spread among the species, are also in most cases of animal origin. The Dutch like to put them on bread, which makes a broodje kroket.
Such titbits are bought in the ubiquitous branches of a fast food chain, which presents them to the hungry customer in little vending machines with glass windows: Inside the boxes, they’re kept at body temperature. The compressed meal is then consumed standing up, in all due hurry.
This procedure certainly has some advantages. First of all, even a short half hour lunch break is enough for the consumption of a petite, but filling kroket. Moreover, neither knife, fork nor plate is required. Basically, it’s very Dutch: it’s goedkoop (cheap), it’s efficient and you certainly won’t be suspected of indulging in sinful luxury.
Between pragmatism and love for the exotic
Regarding fast food, traditional pragmatism meets the modern Dutchman’s predilection for the exotic. Not for nothing are neither cabbage nor potatoes being pressed, but rather foreign meals like bami, nasi or shoarma. Multicultural is the keyword in the world of Dutch fast food. And this doesn’t only count for the said vending box chain, but also for the family snack bar in the countryside. Besides old-established kidney sandwiches and hotpots, immigrants from far-away countries dominate the extensive menu: saté and loempia, sjaslik and Mexicano.
Who would wonder, considering indigenous Dutch delicacies such as warm vlees, meaning warm meat. It is never specified on the menu exactly which animal or part of an animal the vlees derives from or which kind of preparation it underwent. Foreigners are often a bit disconcerted by the fact that this dish is being described as just warm, and not hot. To non-Dutch ears, warm meat sounds like it was still mooing and trotting across the slaughterhouse yard only ten minutes ago. Well, probably this again has to do with the limited lunch break. At least you can’t burn your mouth on it.
There’s always chips
But you can always resort to a portion of good old patat chips, with one of the manifold sauces, from normal mayonnaise to saus andaluz (hot and garlicky) and boerensaus (farmer’s sauce, whatever that may mean). And the sauce isn’t the only choice, you even get to pick the kind of chips you want: Should they be straight, slightly wavy (licht gekrult) or curly (gekrult)?
Even if a saté sauce in the worst case turns out to be a bland heap of mud, it certainly sounds more appetising than a nierbroodje, a kidney sandwich. Nobody should miss patat oorlog, (war-style chips), be it only for curiosity sake. These are chips, topped by a battlefield of all the ingredients found in the snack bar’s kitchen. And I really mean all the ingredients.
If that’s too heavy for you, you can always try a salad. But don’t expect a feast of healthy and crunchy greens if you order a huzarensalade or an eiersalade. The occasional vegetable particles hide well from the inhospitable climate of the Netherlands under a thick cover of mayonnaise.
This is a cold and wet country, your body needs fat and calories, and the Dutch snack supplies them.