Our Traditional Dutch Food Experience
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There are so many ways to experience a place. The culture, the attractions, the people…and the food. Since we want to fully immerse ourselves in a place and have as complete of an experience as possible, we’re trying some of the traditional food in each region we visit. So, each place we visit will take some thought, research and planning. If we’re going to have a good traditional meal that gives us an impression of the region, we want it to be as true to the area as possible. It isn’t always perfect, but we do our best to find a dish or two that are a good representation of the traditional cuisine.
On our trip to the Netherlands we tried a variety of Dutch foods.
It's no surprise, Holland is famous for their cheese. Holland produces 30-million pounds of cheese a week (Holland's Best)! There are cheese shops all over Amsterdam, and frankly, Shannon was in awe (she loves cheese!). Walk into any of these shops and ask what the most traditional cheese is and you’ll likely be told gouda. Gouda is actually named after the city Gouda in the Netherlands and it’s one of the most popular cheeses in the world (Top Food Facts). We of course could not resist trying gouda while in Amsterdam. We tried cow milk gouda, goat milk gouda, and all in a variety of ages, from a few months to over three years. It was, of course, delicious!
We’re ‘Ballin, Bitterballen That Is!
Bitterballen can be found in just about any pub or café in Amsterdam. They're a snack or appetizer generally served with beer. Since we don’t drink alcohol, we got a laugh and an “is that it?” from our waiter when all we ordered was a plate of bitterballen. We looked up the best rated places to get this dish and ended up at Boca’s.
From the description we read during our Dutch food research, we expected these breaded and fried balls of meat to be just that; deep fried meat balls. However, we were in for a shock on our first bite. They were more the consistency of a pudding than of a traditional meat ball. To be specific, bitterballen are traditionally made of beef or veal and have broth, vegetables, butter, flour, and seasoning, then they are breaded and fried (Wikipedia). Sound yummy? We thought so.
We’d never thought of licorice as a Dutch treat. However, during our research we learned a very interesting fact. The Dutch, have the highest consumption, per capita, of licorice worldwide, on average eating four-pounds of licorice each, per year (Awesome Amsterdam). Once we learned this, we put licorice on our short list of foods we might try. But first we asked ourselves, if we try licorice here, will it be any different than in the US? And yes, we learned it is. There’s the standard sweet licorice candy, but there’s another variety that neither of us had seen or tasted before. Common in the Netherlands is salty licorice, also known as drop. It’s not easy to explain, you really just have to try it for yourself. We tried it, and if offered it again, we would kindly decline and stick with the sweet variety.
See videos of people trying this treat for the first time at Stuff Dutch People Like.
Tip: For spotting these salty Dutch treats, keep an eye out for the word "zoute" which means "salt" in Dutch.
Stamppot and Rookworst
Potatoes are a staple of the Dutch diet if you take what you see in a grocery store as an indicator. So, we weren’t surprised to see stamppot as a traditional meal in Holland. Stamppot is mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables or fruit. Traditionally it’s made with sauerkraut, endive, kale, spinach, turnip greens, or carrot and onion (Wikipedia).
Stamppot is often served with Rookworst, a type of Dutch sausage (Wikipedia). We looked up popular places to get this dish and found that it wasn’t as easy of a dish to find in a restaurant as we thought it would be. We found it in a small deli, Frederique, where they were kind enough to give us a mixed plate with two different kinds of stamppot. One made with kale and rookworst and the other with leeks and bacon. Really, how could this dish not be good? We certainly enjoyed this hearty meal!
Worth a Mention
Overall we enjoyed our Dutch food! We know we missed many traditional plates and items, like raw herring, stroopwafel, dutch fries and oliebollen. Raw herring is mainly a summer dish, since you want raw fish to be fresh. When it came to the fries and pastries, we had to set our limits, as we want to leave with the same waist size as we arrived with!
An Amsterdam unique food place worth mentioning is FEBO. It’s a fast food chain crossed with vending machines. So, what you get is a wall of windowed compartments, each with a hot food item. Make your selection, insert money and then take out your food. Interesting….