We love trying different food from all over the world, and Europe is the perfect place for a foodie because you don’t have to go very far to find different local specialities and delicacies. When people think of European food their minds tend to drift towards pizza in Italy, cheese in France, or tapas in Spain, but one country that is very much overlooked in terms of its cuisine is the Netherlands.
Dutch Cuisine doesn’t just boil down to cheese and beer, although those two elements are very much a big part of food culture that should not be missed. Like many European countries, the Netherlands know how to bake, and their sweet treats are definitely a highlight to any visit. The Dutch also know how to whip up a good hearty meal with meat and vegetables, perfect if you’re visiting in the winter and you’re looking for something warming.
Here’s a rundown on what you absolutely should not miss on the Dutch food scene.
Fries and Mayonnaise
Dutch people eat over 41 million kilos of French fries per year – those folks just can’t get enough of them. Most of us are used to combining fries with ketchup but over in the Netherlands they put mayonnaise with them. It might sound completely bizarre to many of us, but the combination actually works exceptionally well.
Sometimes they use just plain mayonnaise, but it’s not uncommon to find different varieties, such as ‘joppiesaus’, which contains mayo, spices and ketchup, a peanut sauce as another extra add-on, or a curried mayonnaise that has a bit of a kick to it.
Fries and mayonnaise are the perfect street food option in the Netherlands, so if you’re looking for a bite to eat on the go, keep your eyes peeled for a street vendor selling this delicious combination.
Another very popular street food choice if you’re in the mood for something sweeter is a stroopwafel. Our first experience with these sweet delights was at the Mövenpick Hotel during afternoon tea. They originated in the Netherlands back in the 18th century, and the authentic version you buy from Dutch vendors are far superior to anything you’ll find anywhere else in the world, and much larger, too.
Cheese deserves a category in its own right when we’re talking about Dutch cuisine, and the country is actually the largest exporter of cheese in the world. The Netherlands is a country very famous for its signature cheeses, and the nation likes to put cheese on almost any meal possible. It’s even a popular addition at breakfast along with meat and bread, or with eggs of some sort.
Gouda and Edam are amongst the most famous cheeses from the Netherlands. These both have quite a mild flavor and rubbery texture, but Gouda has a bit more of a kick to it. When you find really good Gouda anywhere in the world it’s always amongst the favorites on a cheese board at any party, and goes very well with fruit such as grapes.
You can find all kinds of cheeses at markets and in stores in the Netherlands, and they make the perfect picnic food. Grab a selection from the nearest possible source, and tuck into the deliciousness whilst bathing yourself in sunshine.
This is a classic dish usually served up on cold winter nights in a lot of family homes and restaurants across the Netherlands. This meal consists of mashed vegetables such as potatoes with kale, spinach, sauerkraut, turnip green, carrots, or onions, served up with smoke sausage on the side.
There are a number of variations on the recipe as it’s something that a chef can really play around with and make it their own. I would imagine that it’s one of those things where every Dutch grandmother has their own version, and her grandchildren always claim it to be the best they’ve ever tasted.
Poffertjes are small and fluffy batter pancakes, served with powdered sugar and butter, sometimes with syrup. These are especially popular in the winter months; during this time you will often find street vendors selling poffertjes and letting the smell of their cooking waft through the streets, tempting even the strictest of dieters. Served up on a little cardboard plate with a plastic fork, you’ll feel very Dutch walking though the street munching away on these delicious treats.
Poffertjes are also sold pre-packaged in supermarkets, with little sachets of syrup and sugar, but there is nothing quite like the street version for that authentic experience.
This delicacy is a bit of an acquired taste and most visitors to the Netherlands will cringe at the thought of eating such a thing, as we did. Raw herring marinated in mild pickled vinegar is a very popular dish in this country, and is otherwise known as Dutch brined herring.
This kind of cuisine was developed in the Netherlands in the Middle Ages, and although you can find similar things in Europe, it really was the Dutch who first put their mark on this method of preparing herring.
This is another kind of dish you can find from street vendors, and the fish is usually served up in a bread bun with finely diced pickles and onions. You might want a breath mint after that one!
Bitterballen are chopped or minced beef mixed with a couple of basic ingredients, which are then rolled into balled, battered in a breadcrumb and egg mixture, and deep fried. These are usually served up as little snacks with a mustard-based dip. Nutmeg makes a common appearance in the preparation of bitterballen, but sometimes cooks also throw in a bit of curry power to add that extra bit of spice.
You’ll find bitterballen on numerous pub menus, and they’re prefect for just nibbling on if you’re in the mood for something small and easy, plus they’re great for sharing.
What would an article about Dutch cuisine be without mentioning beer? The Netherlands is home to very famous pale ales such as Heineken and Grolsch, which are both exported globally and you will find them on many a beer list around the world. Heineken is actually the third largest brewer of beer in the world, and in Amsterdam you can even go and have the ‘Heineken Experience’, a museum where you can learn all about the famous Dutch brew.
These commercial pale ales are what you will find most commonly around the Netherlands, but also make sure you look out for some specializes of certain regions. Whilst the Dutch are very proud of the beers that they sell globally, it should still not be discounted as a country with craft beer. Make sure you always ask your waiter plenty of questions in a restaurant about the beer selection to find a locally brewed pint.
For tickets to the Heineken Experience visit the I amsterdam website.
What is your favorite food from the Netherlands?