Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Beginner's Guide to Dutch Food

Unlike many other European countries, The Netherlands is not particularly renowned for its cuisine. Say Italy, you got pizza; say France, you got crêpes and many other fancy-named dishes; say Sweden, you got those famed meatballs with cranberry sauce. Say even UK, infamous for its terrible cuisine (an opinion I don't share at all) and you got fish and chips and more recently tikka masala. But say the Netherlands and you got what? There is for sure cheese - who hasn't heard of the Edam or Gouda varieties - and most tourists know about raw herrings and stroopwaffels (waffle biscuits filled with caramel) but other than that, no Dutch especiality really stands out in the international food hit parades. And that's a pity because there are some good reasons to enjoy the Netherlands with your taste buds, as well as with every other sense.

The traditional cuisine of the Netherlands is not elaborate nor elegant; it is rather simple, yet hearty. It is based on the humble produce that succeed to grow despite the rainy and cool climate, mostly potatoes, and many of the dishes were the standard food of farmers and have been eaten that way since a couple of hundred years ago. Some typical Dutch dishes may seem quite dull and not very appetizing but they usually make a satiating meal for the cold and short winter days. And there are, of course, lighter options for warmer summertime. This post does not intend to be a comprehensive guide of the Dutch cuisine but rather a list based on my experiences and liking. So let's start this culinary trip, I hope you enjoy!

Krentenbroodjes & ontbijtkoek - mmm, breakfast in the Netherlands was something I really hearted, especially in the weekends. I used to start my day with a cup of tea and some slices of bread with butter and jam. But some days I was lucky enough to have krentenbroodjes at home, which are small sweet buns containing raisins. If I was luckier, I would have ontbijkoek, which literally means breakfast cookie and is a delicious spiced cake. It was so good that I did not only ate it for breakfast.

Ontbijtkoek

Stamppot & Erwtensoep - these two are really traditional Dutch dishes to be enjoyed when temperatures drop. Stamppot is a simple meal consisting of mashed potatoes mixed with some vegetables, usually cabbage or endives, and accompanied by rookworst, a thick smoked sausage. A common variation is the hutspot, which is made with mashed potatoes, carrots and onions. Erwtensoep, meaning pea soup, is another favourite Dutch meal for cold days. It is a very thick soup of split peas and is served with some slices of rookworst.

Stamppot and rookworst

Frituur & frikadellen - the Dutch have really mastered the art of snacks. They have so many different types of croquettes and other deep-fried food that it would take a very long time - or a very big stomach - to try them all and choose a favourite. My favourites were the satékroket and bitterballenFrikadellen are another Ducth especiality and they are really compact sausages made of ... well, Dutch people usually advise not to ask what frikadellen are made of. The best place to grab some of these bites are a frituur, where you can also get fries soaking on mayonese (another typical Dutch snack) or the FEBO, a chain of fast-food restaurants famous for selling all their snacks on vending machines.

Bitterballen

Saté & Nasi Goreng - the Netherlands also took its place in the world when many other European powers did so. The former Dutch empire included Indonesia, Suriname and several islands in the Caribbean, including Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. These colonial territories have also influenced the cuisine of the Netherlands and some of the most popular dishes today are of Indonesian or Caribbean origin. Kipsaté, or chicken satay, is a favourite for BBQs and consist of chicken marinated in a peanut sauce. Satay sauce is so popular that it can be bought in all supermarkets in the Netherlands and it is also possible to buy kipsaté sandwich spread. Nasi goreng is another Indonesian especiality consisting of fried rice with vegetables, eggs and it can have chicken or prawns as well. Indonesian restaurants abound in the Netherlands but HEMA shops cater a very affordable one in their restaurants. Nasi Goreng with satay sauce and prawn crackers for only 5€ - a big favourite of mine!

Kipsaté

Those were the days in the Netherlands, having some ontbijtkoek for breakfast, snacking on bitteballen, enjoying a stamppot on cold winter evenings and indulging in some nasi goreng every now and then. As I said, this is not a comprehensive list. There are many, many other things I could add relating to food in the Netherlands but I think it is a good starter's guide. Let me know if I'm missing something essential or there's something I really, really need to try. By the way, I'm looking for a good recipe for ontbijtkoek as I cannot buy any in Switzerland and I crave it so badly, so if you happen to have one, would you mind sharing?

Thank you for all your sweet comments and have a lovely Wednesday!

13 comments:

  1. This was so interesting Irene! I had no idea of what type of foods/dishes they served. My eyes lit up at the stamppot and rookworst. It looks so good. I received your email! You are such a doll. It definitely explains everything. Thank you so much.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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    1. I'm glad the mail was helpful :)
      Also, good that you enjoyed the post. I'm always curious about foreign cuisines and I thought it would be nice to share sth abou the Netherlands, which is rather unknown.

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  2. Hmmm I miss some of these! Peperkoek, that's the Belgian name for it (solves the problem of only having it for breakfast haha) is absolutely delicious, especially with a fat layer of margarine on it :)

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    1. Mmm peperkoek sounds also tempting! I miss Belgian frites and kroketjes :) oh, and a glass of kriek every now and then!

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  3. I don't think I can pronounce most of the the words. Haha, but would love to try them. I did try frikadellen during a trip to Brussels. I remember enjoying it very much. :)

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    1. I also like frikadellen but in small doses hehe
      I think Dutch words look really weird when you don't know the language at all. It is really puzzling and too full of k, w and ij

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  4. Hola guapa, sigo viva pero entre la falta de tiempo y que estoy muy poco inspirada...la verdad es que me esta costando mucho volver a ponerme en marcha.
    Yo me acuerdo mucho de las maquinas de vending con ventanitas de comida que vendian tambien patatas fritas con mayonesa, (no se si serian FEBO) cuando estuve en Amsterdam estaban por todas partes y me pareció super curioso.
    Besote guapa y gracias por la visita

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    1. A veces pasa y cuando se pierde la costumbre de escribir cuesta retomarlo. Además, yo creo que sin tiempo y con estrés cuesta mucho inspirarse.
      Me alegro de que estés bien :)
      A mi tb me llamaron mucho la atención las máquinas que venden patatas fritas, es algo raro jajaja

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  5. El desayuno me parece muy rico y los aperitivos también tienen muy buena pinta. Seguro que lo de la salchicha también está bien ( porque yo soy de las que le gusta todo, qué lástima! -tengo que estar siempre frenándome para no engordar pero me pasaría el día comiendo) . Bss, Irene:)
    Muy interesante el post.

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    1. Jajaja pues ya somos dos que tenemos que controlarnos con la comida porque a mi tb me encanta probarlo todo. Y sobre todo me pierde lo dulce :)

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  6. Such an interesting post! Was very curious to read it. Thank you for writing it and the photos. I think there's good and bad food wherever you go… For example, British food is not that bad and traditional dishes go far beyond fish&chips or Indian (though according to numerous surveys it's the most popular thing here), it can taste delicious, but a lot of it is very VERY heavy and not particularly vegetarian-friendly. ;)
    x

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  7. Yum! The food your shared looks wonderful! I am very hungry now! I know that back in the UK there are so many good regional dishes that are superb - is the food you highlighted here particular to a region or more national? Loved reading this!

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  8. Love this post! Love the Netherlands and I love food. :) I don't know why but the Netherlands always remind me of pannekoeken. And fla and choco melk. Thanks for sharing this! I love raisin buns so much, recently made some myself and they turned out really yummy!

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