Written by Claire Nief
Since I arrived here in the Netherlands, I have been discovering many different Dutch cultural aspects. As a lot of international students, I was surprised by the amount of bikes in the city – and the fact that Dutch people have incredible biking skills (yes, being able to bike while being drunk AND holding your beer is a skill). The weather was also a (not so nice) surprise, as well as the fact that everyone here seems to have been born bilingual . But for me, discovering a country directly goes along with experiencing its food and most famous dishes / snacks. So, just for you my friends, here is my personal top 5 of Dutch food that you definitely need to try before leaving this delectable country.
Kapsalon is the perfect drunk food for when you leave Carpe at 4 and need to fill up your tired body with some energy – it also works for any other club or bar. Let me describe this delight to you: fries, topped with döner or shoarma meat, grilled with a layer of cheese until melted, and subsequently covered with a layer of dressed salad greens ( proof that it is a healthy dish!). It is so big, fat and satisfying that it literally tastes like heaven when you are hungry. And for your information, “kapsalon” means hairdresser’s in Dutch, which can seem a little bit unrelated, but apparently the inventor of the dish was a hairdresser. Who said you cannot cut people’s hair and be a junk food genius inventor?
If you like going to outside markets, maybe you have tried the one in the centre, at Koningsplein. Not only are the products fresher and cheaper than in regular supermarkets, but you can also have a cheap and delicious meal at the fish stand: Kibbeling. Dutch version of Fish & Chips but without the chips, these delicious pieces of paradise are battered and deep fried morsels of white fish, served with herbs, mayonnaise and lemon. They are pretty dirty for your hands, but extremely good for your palate and stomach. If you don’t like fish, you can also try the roasted chicken bits a few stands further, which are also a pretty good street-snack experience.
Frikandel with Dutch fries
This one is a combination that you can find in any snackbar/ cafeteria. For those who may not have tried it yet, a cafeteria is an inexpensive food counter where snack foods and light meals are sold (basically a place where you can find all kind of tastes and greatness, if you haven’t been there yet, run for it you fools!). Cafeterias are numerous in Tilburg, and they have all kind of Dutch specialties. My selection for you is Frikandel with Dutch fries: nothing says “Dutch” more than frikandel, which is a sort of minced-meat hotdog. You can try it “speciaal”, served together with mayonnaise, curry ketchup and chopped raw onion, or with “broodje”, served in a bun, which makes it more like a hotdog. Whatever you choose, you will like this little piece of heaven. As for Dutch fries, they are not like any kind of fries! Called “patat” or “frites” on the menu, they are really thick and tasty fries traditionally served in a paper cone, coated with all kind of delicious toppings and sauce. If you want it served with onion, mayonnaise and curry-ketchup, ask for the “patat speciaal”.
Bitterballen / Kroket
You can find this one in almost every bar and cafés, as it is one the most famous and appreciated Dutch snacks, and it goes perfectly together with beer! These deep-fried, crunchy meatballs are filled with a soft mixture made of beef, flour, butter and spices. Be careful when trying it because this delicious filling is often burning hot! Served with mustard for dipping, this is the perfect food to share (or not) if you get peckish while having some beers with friends. If you like the idea but think that they are too small for you, try the Kroket! Shaped as cylinders, they are very similar to bitterballen for the ingredients and taste, but bigger- so more satisfying. If you really want to make it filling, you should try the Kroket as a sandwich: inside of some soft bread, it is then called “broodje kroket”.
Let’s have a bit of sweetness to finish this top! Stroopwafel were invented in the 18th in the city of Gouda, and never stopped being a hit since then. Sort of chewy cookie, stroopwafels are made of two thin waffles with a layer of syrup in the middle (the “stroop”). If you never tried it, you should know that it is without a doubt the most famous dutch pastry in the world, and that it is particularly delicious when served very hot and gooey with a cup of tea or coffee. Coming in various sizes, you can find them in every supermarket, but for the best Stroopwafels you should definitely go to a bakery or buy a fresh one at a market.