We’re now in Amsterdam, the lovely city of canals, which is in the Netherlands, the lovely country of windmills and tulips and cheese. And they’re decent at football. We know a lot about the Netherlands in general, but its cuisine isn’t as recognizable as its French or Italian or even German counterparts. In talking about Dutch cuisine, if people can even talk about it at all, it usually ends up being a conversation about the influences from the Dutch colonies (hello, Indonesian; hello, spices!) and the lackluster options for real inventive food. At least, that was my experience in the months leading up to our visit to Amsterdam. And true, there’s a lot of fried food in the Netherlands and it’s definitely not cutting-edge like in Scandinavia. But in taking a deeper dive into the way the Ditch eat, I found some real gems.
First up was obviously pancakes, or pannekoeken, and obviously we ate them on a boat. Pannekoeken are more like French crêpes than American pancakes, but they’re eaten more in the American style. At least, to an extent; we were invited to fill up our plates of pannekoeken with anything our hearts desired: fruit, sprinkles, jam, chocolate, ham or cheese for a savory pancake, and of course syrup, super sweet syrup and powdered sugar. It was so much, but so good. What is most interesting about pannekoeken though is that our dinner cruise wasn’t out of the norm. The Dutch eat pancakes mostly for dinner, rather than breakfast. Though I don’t think anyone would stop you from serving them for breakfast. Because they’re good.
For breakfast, you’re actually more likely going to find a light meal with buttered bread or an omelette. Or hagelslag, which is buttered bread with a ton of chocolate sprinkles doused on top. Yes, that’s an actual thing. I couldn’t find it during our two days there, and I’m not sure I could handle it, so I’ll have to say I’ll save that for next time. But I did encounter currant rye bread, aka krentenbollen. Yummy. I had mine sliced, with some guernsey butter slathered all over. It was so hearty and fruity, I probably could have had a whole loaf.
Before starting to research what the Durch eat for this trip, I actually had already some exposure to food here in the Netherlands in the form of wonderful fried croquettes called bitterballen. I had them in Maastricht when I was here in 2012, and I’ve been looking forward to trying them again since we decided to come to Amsterdam. They’re crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Between the Dijon to dip the balls in and the spiced filling on the inside, they are probably my favorite Dutch snack. We had them at the lovely Cafe Luxembourg along with some munttea (mint tea). It was such a pleasant experience, being able to sit out on the sidewalk and people watch. And bicycle watch. Bicycles are everywhere. I could do this all day.
We also had the chance to eat a few brootjes–sandwiches! Brootjes are all over Amsterdam, offered with many filling options, but the best is the haring brootje. Herring can also be eaten just as a filet by holding the filet by the tail over your mouth, but I opted for a sandwich with onions and pickles alongside the fish. It was full of flavor, since the herring is brined in vinegar and spices. The brine also makes the filet very tender. There are street stands all over selling haring, but I got mine at Albert Cuypmarkt. Unfortunately it wasn’t the season for hollandse nieuwe, which would be young haring caught early in the season, but I’ll take it either way.
Of course, we also made sure to try Dutch sweets. It’s clear the Dutch love sweet treats, based on the quality, quantity and variety of what we sampled. The crown jewels in my mind were appeltaart, stroopwafel and poffertjes! It’s probably obvious that the delicious appeltaart was my favorite and the Dutch do it very well, with sultanas and a thick, flaky crust. But the stroopwafel and poffertjes, both typical street foods, were tasty as well.
Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to try everything on my list, like snert (pea soup) or stamppot (a purée of potatoes and other vegetables). The healthier options that weren’t really at the cafés we visited. We’ll save those for the next time we visit the Netherlands.
As a bonus: we went to Febo, which reminded me of the vending stalls from Japan, but with Dutch food! It was terribly unhealthy, but kind of fun!