Dutch Food Dutch Cuisine – It’s more than bitterballen and poffertjes !
Dutch food, Dutch cuisine…..So I have been thinking about Dutch food for some time now. Yes it is a million miles away from the Mediterranean diets and dishes found in Italy, France and Spain. That said, there is something to be enjoyed all the same. I just have the impression that there is more to it. There has to be ! Dutch food has more humble beginnings perhaps. It is forged in history and defined by its geographical position in northern Europe. I want to understand it better and explore more options when going out to eat or when cooking. I’d like to try more dishes in more places and cook more traditional Dutch dishes at home.
In the beginning….
For sure the Golden Age and the Dutch colonies added a certain ‘spice’ to Dutch cooking. Indonesian and Surinamese foods are available everywhere nowadays and much of it is delicious and well loved. Recent culinary changes haveTaylor breathed a breath of fresh air into Dutch cuisine and chefs are experimenting with the classics and blending new flavours and tastes. This shot in the arm to Dutch cuisine has created a generation of foodies that chase the latest trends and rightly so. New restaurants are opening all the time and this new competition is driving the whole food industry forward in a positive way.
This blog looks more at what there is and what we all might be missing out on. Then we have a Q+A with a British chef who has been cooking in the Netherlands for years to get some insights from Damien Taylor about what people are eating
Keeping it local.
Traditionally, lot of the Dutch food is based around the agriculture, so wheat and vegetables. Add to that the North Sea fish produce and meat coming from the Dutch farms. This is also why there are so many great food shops such as bakeries, cheese shops and butchers.
As internationals living in the Netherlands, we have probably tried some combination of the following: Bitterballen, haring, Dutch fries with mayonnaise, a selection of the Dutch cheese, poffitjes, pea soup, oiliboelen, frikendales, a stampot, some of their excellent Dutch (Belgian?) sandwiches. Coffe and a stroopwafel anyone ? Ja ! Many of these are great foods to enjoy. Obviously some are healthier than others: Everyone knows that bittenballen are hot and tasty, but they are fried, so high in calories. Haring is not only really tasty in contains lots of good fats for the body.
Here is more about a selection of the above great foods that you may or not already know and love.
These could be used by the European Space Agency to simulate conditions on the surface of the sun. The trick is
not to rush in and get third degree burns on your tongue. A perfect snack when you are enjoying a beer. Think of them as deep fried meatballs. The veggie ones are very good too. They are typically served with a tasty mustard that is not strong like English mustard. Beer and bitterballen is a match made in heaven. Kroketten are similar and come in more flavours. Frinkandellen are part of the same family pretty much.
Aka Dutch sushi. To fans of this great fish, it is a drug. Once you learn to love them, passing in front of a vishandel without buying one becomes a tough thing to do. Preserving herring was perfected by the Dutch in the middle ages and fortunes were made exporting these tasty little fish to foreign buyers. The herring caught between May and July are said to be the tastiest. It is served with pickles and onions or you can order it in a bun. Just a great and healthy snack.
If you love fish and chips, you will love kibbeling. Chunks of white fish that are deep fried in batter and served with a sauce that is irresistible. Usually the fish is cod. Every good fish shop or street stand will have this: Crunchy and tasty, but it’s not exactly light on the calorie count. Maybe the Dutch cycle so much in order to burn off all the extra calories they are consuming !
Dutch Food Dutch Cuisine : cheese
OK so who has not gone into a Dutch cheese shop with small pangs of hunger just to grab some free cheese and then leave again without buying anything ? The selection of Dutch cheeses is stunning and there is something for every taste. Every street market has 2 or 3 cheese stands and the same is true of every good high street. There is even a cheese museum in Amsterdam.
Similar to bitterballen in many ways except the shape. A roux is created with different flavours and then rolled in egg, flour and bread crumbs and deep-fried. It is served with bread and salad of from the little window from a Febo. It is very satisfying as deep fried snacks can be…
Is one ever enough ? A perfect accompaniment to a coffee these Dutch treats are so tasty, but again don’t think of the calories. It is a simple concept – two wafer thin waffels held together with a sweet and sticky syrup. Legend has it that the baker Gerard Kamphuisen invented the stroopwafel in 1810. What a great idea ! A recent trend is the ‘pimp my strropwafel’ but really, you cannot beet the original and best.
It is exactly what the name says it is. Oily balls. Sounds disgusting; but in fact is beyond delicious. More deep fried food…..basically it is a dumpling cooked in hot oil and then given a dusting of powdered sugar. They taste amazing, but ae not for weight watchers. Different versions are available, some with fruit. How healthy!
A perennial favourite for the kids (and most adults…) poffertjes are the perfect snack on a winter’s day. Other seasons are available for this snack too. Drops of batter are heated then fliiped over. The cooked poffertjes are then buttered and coated with powdered sugar. If you are sharing these, you will see your friend’s hand diving in ever quicker as these treats start to disappear and no one will have any scruples about whipping the last one off the plate.
A well known classic and really delicious with it too ! Although called pea soup it contains so much more and should be good and thick. Also present are carrots; onions, bacon and smoked sausage. A meal in a bowl.
Stampot and Hutspot
This translates as ‘mashed pot’ which is very accurate. Essentially a simple but tasty dish of mashed potatoes and kale. Sauerkraut is often present too. Then that is adorned with a smoked sausage. Not the kind of dish you would order in the Summer, but in the winter everyone dreams about it. Hutspot is similar but with carrot and onions.
Apple Pie and cream
This is the king of mid afternoon comfort snacks. The crust is so think and tasty and the sometimes tart apple taste is offset nicely with the big dollop of cream. This a an absolute must try for anyone visiting Amsterdam. If you live here, it’s just a regular event for some people. Everyone knows the Bill Clinton and the apple pie story, right ?
So which of these have you tried ? I tried them all and they were all delicious ! This year I will be trying to cook some of these to learn more about Dutch food as I am sure there is more to it that us expats and internationals living in the Netherlands give it credit for.
Let’s ask a chef…..
One man I know who has more experience than most with food in the Netherlands is Damien from the UK. He has cooked in kitchens up and down the country and here are his views on Dutch Food Dutch Cuisine.
What do you think of Dutch food ?
It has grown on me over the years, perhaps its culinary Stockholm syndrome, I have actually grown to like it, I think its good because its simple, dutch food is still very seasonal & regional and they cook with a lot of vegetables throughout the year, from a chef perspective this is brilliant.
I tend to stay away from the heavily processed staples like the Unox sausages (have you seen the ingredients) and the powder soups & canned soups which are heavy on artificial colours and salt.
Being a chef I have wrestled with this subject in my head, what is national food anyway? Does food really have a national identity? I am not so sure its that simple… Curry is Indian, but Indians don’t eat Tikka massala, its stone cold British. Americans love pizza – but you wont find an Italian person eating dominos, and Babi Pangang isn’t Indonesian, food is ultimately borderless.
Take a look at my own country the UK, our food is pretty bland in its concept, but I love the textures and flavours because they are buried deep in my conscious, there is a profound familiarity in the smell and texture, people like Jamie Oliver have made sure that British food is on a platform and has given British food identity on a global scale and has even made apple crumble sexy.
I think the same could be done for Dutch Food Dutch Cuisine, I think its moment is coming.
Honestly what do you think most non Dutch think of Dutch food?
I think if you are coming from New York, London or Tel Aviv where the choice and quality is exhausting , dutch food can be a culture shock because of its simplicity. 10 years ago Amsterdam was a culinary wilderness, but now I see it changing fast, if you know where to go and what to eat, you will be pleasantly surprised.
What kinds of Dutch foods you cook ?
Like all expats, I had ween myself off stroopwaffels after 6 months, they are the greatest thing on earth, but addictive like crack cocaine.
I love erwtensoep, when its made properly its stunning, I love that when the weather gets cold it appears on the menu, I am a little bit of an enthusiast, my own is my favourite because I don’t like it salty. Also, I adore Speculaas, I love the smell of it approaching the Sinterklaas period.
I have 2 kids and we tend to keep it low key because they can be picky eaters, so we have a lot of different kinds of stampot at home, it’s a great way to get them to eat vegetables.
I know you work on the fabulous initiative One Big Feed. Can you tell us more about it ?
One Big Feed is a simple initiative where Chefs & volunteers cook a High quality, substantial warm meal for the homeless and less fortunate. We only use fresh & nutritionally dense ingredients, We have been operating for 2.5 years, we have served over 4 thousand meals since 2017.
Thank you Damien for these insights. If people want to get involved and help out at ONE big feed, how can they do that and support the initiative.
Firstly we are always looking for chefs to take up the mantel, we have 8 dedicated chefs who work in rotation and could always use more, we are always looking for volunteers to serve food & help with prep. We are contactable through the ‘One big Feed’ facebook group.
Secondly but no less important, we exist totally on donations, we always welcome them, large or small. We have enough money at the moment to see us through till the summer, there is a donation button on the Facebook page which we use.
One last question, which restaurant is your favourite or go-to place for Dutch Food Dutch Cuisine ?
There are 2 worth a mention, both brilliant.
1, Restaurant Breda on Singel: I have eaten there more times than I can remember (maybe 15-20), great food, great wine, excellent service, price quality is exceptional.
2, Grahams kitchen on Hemonystraat: absolutely amazing food, great wine list, service is best in Amsterdam, it’s a little gem down the backstreet.
Thank you Damien for those insights.
We hope you liked this blog about Dutch food. Remember to check out One Big Feed and more great blogs about Amsterdam are here.
ANSWER. The light blue one. It was a double serving and double delicious !