Things to eat in the Netherlands, local cuisine and specialities
Although simple and full-bodied, Dutch cuisine can be very surprising at times thanks to the country's colonial past. Also, it can surely satisfy different tastes. So you can go for classics, or seek some extraordinary, often sophisticated dishes.
Cheese all around
What you must do for starters is to enjoy the Netherlands' reatest specialities, i.e. cheeses. They have been in production for more than five centuries now, and in great quantity which today is in the region of 700 million tonnes annually! In the 17th century, the characteristic round products were already shipped worldwide – on the one hand, they were exported to remote countries, and on the other, they served sailors for a long time thanks to their good preservation. The names of individual types often mean the town which they come from. And so, on shops shelves there are, among others, Gouda, Leerdammer, Edammer, Maaslander and Amsterdammer. They differ from each other not only in terms of the place of production, but, more importantly, the time of maturing, which translates into their consistence and colour. Try as many types as you can to choose the best one for you. Do not limit yourself and remember that an average Dutch eats as much as 15 kg of cheese every year!
Dutch cuisine has been shaped through climate and deep see journeys, but first and foremost through the famous Dutch economy, if not stinginess. As nowadays we all make efforts to live with a greater awareness, the respect for food and use of everything that can is edible is a very valuable attitude. This is why potatoes are a staple product on the Dutch menu. Don't be surprised to learn that the rich Dutch nation prides itself in slow cooked potatoes with vegetables and very dark sauce called jus, which is made from gravy and slightly burnt leftovers from roast scraped from the pan. Stamppot is another variety of a potato and vegetable dish. A classic "single pot" dish, it is made from slow cooked carrots, onions, kale, potatoes and sometimes sauerkraut. The ingredients are sometimes cooked so long that they start to fall apart. In a more refined version, the vegetable pulp is enriched with a piece of sausage.
On holiday or for meat lovers
As the tradition prescribes, Sunday and holiday meals should be richer and more elegant. This is why Dutch melas for "special occasion" will come to meat eaters' liking. Dutch meat specialities are ruled by stewed beef ( draadjesvlees), beef goulash with onion (hachee) and meat balls in sauce ( gehaktbal).
Since the Netherlands has seen influx of different flavours for centuries, and received a great number of immigrants from its former colonies (but not only) after World War II, dishes from virtually all over the world can be found even in small towns up and down the country. Naturally, Indonesia, Turkish and Arab dishes are most popular, but you can also discover many other African, Asian and South African flavours. If you are conservative on the cuisine front, with a bit of luck you can find a venue that serves Polish schabowy or ruskie pierogi. Indeed, there are plenty of Polish immigrants there!
A little cup of coffee, a big dessert and a cold mug
Dutch are record holders not inly in terms of cheese consumption, but also intake of coffee, of which they drink over 150 litres per person! Coffee is drunk black as well as in many different variants with milk. And lots of sweets to that. Have Dutch mini-pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar (poffertjes), pancakes topped with syrup (pannenkoeken) or an apple and cinnamon cake served hot (appelgebak). You can also try something stronger, as Dutch are famous for brewing of beer, including Heineken and Amstel, and distilling the juniper-flavoured liquor jenever.
Do you like street food? Excellent! You will have an opportunities to try some Dutch ideas for a fast snack. Since it is a coastal country, it will usually be fish. Hollandse Nieuwe herring or maatjesharing, to be precise. Apprehensive as you might be, eat it like the locals do – take by the tail and just have it in "one bite". You can take chips to that. As in Belgium, they are among street food specialities in the Netherlands.
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