Food is one of my favorite things. As I’m sure most of you have noticed from our travel posts, trying different foods makes up a large portion of our adventures. We are always interested to see and taste the things that people eat in different countries and cultures. So with that in mind, I thought I would share a post about the things that we enjoy eating here in The Netherlands that you might be unfamiliar with in the US.
Let’s start with the sweets. Licorice/Anise flavored items are huge here (they are called drop), but we have not been able to bring ourselves to enjoy that so you won’t find any of that in our home. We do however enjoy Kruidnoten. Kruidnoten is actually a winter/Sinterklaas (that’s Santa Claus here) treat. They are tiny hard spiced cookies. You can find them plain or they can be coated in milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, salted caramel coating, toffee coating, etc.
Another winter sweet that we enjoy is Oliebollen, which are traditionally eaten with champagne on New Year’s Eve. You can find them at stands all over town in the winter season or you can buy box mixes at the store and make them yourself. They are essentially fried dough that is covered in powdered sugar. A lot of people here eat them with raisins but we prefer them plain or with a filling. We have had them filled with apple (very good), Nutella, and banana.
We also enjoy stroopwafels. If your child was ever in a class with my children in elementary school, chances are they have had stroopwafels as we usually brought some from The Netherlands and shared with the class each year. These are two thin, chewy cookies made from a batter that is cooked in a sort of waffle iron that are then sandwiched together with a type of sticky, syrup center. You can buy these prepackaged at the store or you might find a place that makes them fresh. You can also get these in multiple flavors (the strangest that I have seen is lavender and pepper).
They also have a product here (the consistency of creamy peanut butter) called Speculoos. Now, I don’t know how they eat it-maybe as a breakfast spread, maybe as a dessert. I eat it as dessert right off the spoon! It is essentially a cookie butter made from speculoos biscuits which are a spiced shortcrust type of cookie.
While the Dutch are huge fans of apple pie (and it truly is different than American apple pie), one of my favorite things to get from the bakery is Bossche Bollen. It is reminiscent of a cream puff as it is a hollow dough filled with a whipped cream mixture and covered in a chocolate fondant but this pastry was actually created in a town in The Netherlands.
Now you might think dessert on these next two but these are actually breakfast items.
On the left, you have what may look like chocolate sprinkles to you (and essentially they are) but here this is called hagelslag and you eat it on bread for breakfast (the final product also being called hagelslag). You first butter your bread and then pour on a ton of the sprinkles. You can also use peanut butter instead of butter. The sprinkles come in both pure and milk chocolate as well as white and you can find different colors-pink and blue for births are very popular.
On the right, you have what looks like a slice of cheese but is actually a slice of coconut for your bread. It must be made by mixing coconut, sugar and some type of gelatin together to form this slightly gummy coconut slice. It is quite good.
Next is a food that is both a sweet treat (generally how the Dutch eat them) and a breakfast item (often how we eat them). They are called poffertjes. They are a fluffy tiny pancake that is a little spongy. I buy them packaged at the store and warm them up for breakfast (for that we eat them plain), but we have had them as a treat with butter and powdered sugar or with caramel or chocolate sauce. I recently bought the special skillet that you use to make them, so I’m hoping to make some from scratch soon.
One other treat that the Dutch might eat as a pastry treat and we often eat at breakfast is amandelstaaf. This is a flaky pastry with a sugary almond paste filling. These are typical at Christmas time and they are really delicious.
In terms of snacks that aren’t sweet, the Dutch, of course, do like raw or pickled herring. We are not fans of raw fish as a snack, but there are two snacks that we like that are very similar to each other-kroketten and bitterballen. Both consist mainly of a creamy roux type filling which often contains chopped or minced beef (although it can contain other things such as cheese or potato). This is then rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. They are usually served with mustard or a mustard mayonnaise combination sauce. The most noticeable difference between the two is probably their shape with bitterballen being round and krokets/croquettes being oblong shaped and larger. Krokets/Croquettes are often also found on lunch menus as a main dish.
Another snack is frikandel which is a firm, skinless meat sausage or minced meat hot dog that is deep fried. It is often eaten as a snack, but you find it on the children’s menu at restaurants quite often as well.
The other beloved snack in The Netherlands are frites (better known as fries). The main difference between fries in The Netherlands from those in the US is in how they are eaten. The Dutch love to eat them with mayo (and tons of it). They can often be purchased from snack stands in a paper cone with layers of fries and mayonnaise (referred to as frites sauce) or other sauces and toppings and are eaten with a little fork. This is called a zak patat. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it; it’s pretty awesome!
Now, how about some healthy items.
One thing that you can find in many places across Europe, but that I have not seen in the US (at least not where we are from) is red currant berries.
Another item that is a specialty of the south of The Netherlands is white asparagus. I haven’t tried this yet, but am hoping to soon as I just saw them at the market. I have read that it is white because it is grown underground and never has light to produce chlorophyll which makes asparagus green. White asparagus are supposed to be slightly sweeter and more delicate in taste; I will have to let you know.
Of course, The Netherlands is known for its love of Gouda (pronounced “How da” here). And while we do eat that, I really love Old Rotterdam cheese. It’s an “old” cheese meaning it has a stronger flavor, but it’s really good. It is also a harder cheese. If you ever have the opportunity to try some, I highly recommend it.
As far as the main dish, the Dutch like stamppot. This is potato mashed with some other vegetable (typical choices would be spinach, kale, carrot, onion) and served with smoked sausage on top or sliced to the side. There are many variations and different seasonings that you can do to this dish. It’s pretty tasty and definitely hardy.
Pannenkoeken is another favorite meal. There are both savory and sweet versions of this type of crepe and many fillings to choose from but typical fillings are cheese or bacon/ham or both. Common sweet fillings would be sugar and whipped cream. These are generally very large (like they cover the whole plate) and they are slightly thicker than a crepe.
Finally, we have drinks. I’m not sure if this is in the US or not, but here they have fruit water. I know many people drink fruit-infused sparkling water, but that’s not what this is. It’s still water and it tastes like drinking plain water with juice mixed in. It comes in many different flavors like apple and berry and it’s a nice alternative for kids who want a sweet or special drink since it is made with only the natural sugars from the juice and the amount is cut down by the water.
Of course, there are all kinds of “adult beverages” here. Gin is a specialty of The Netherlands and there is a plethora of beer as well. But one thing that is a wholly Dutch drink is called Advocaat. It is made from eggs, sugar and brandy forming a rich and creamy drink with a smooth, custard-like consistency. The typical alcohol content is generally somewhere between 14% and 20%. I have not had an occasion to try this yet, but look forward to giving it a go at some point.
Finally, in addition to coffee, the Dutch do enjoy their fresh mint or ginger teas. Of course, you can get these teas in the US too, but they aren’t presented in quite the same way. At a restaurant or cafe here, they will bring you a glass stuffed with mint leaves and a pot of hot water. Pour the water in and wait and you have your tea. The ginger tea often comes as hot water with a skewer of ginger chunks and lemon slices. Just let your skewer soak and then drink your tea.
Now, I don’t know about you, but all this food has made me hungry. Good thing I live in The Netherlands and can bike it all off!!
Bon Appetit or as the Dutch would say Eet Smakelijk!
***Update to the post-I have now tried both the white asparagus and advocaat. The asparagus was fine. It definitely was a different taste and texture than green asparagus. Advocaat was interesting. It was the consistency of a thick custard-we ate it with a spoon even though it is considered a drink. It was good and definitely strong. It would be interesting to try one of the cocktails made with it.