Sometimes I think my husband wants to return to the Netherlands just to eat the food 🙂 There are so many foods here that he just can’t get in the US. Even if there is something like it – even if we bring ingredients back with us – it is just not the same. There are plenty of things for the boys and me to enjoy as well! Here’s a rundown of all the things we’ve been eating this past month. Some are real treats. Others … maybe not so much. You decide!
It’s common enough to eat bread or toast with meat and/or cheese on it for breakfast. PER especially likes something called filet americain. It’s steak tartar mixed with spices that is eaten kind of like a spread on bread or crackers. Yup, raw beef. Available at every grocery store in the Netherlands! I have to say, the color alone kind of grosses me out! PER, on the other hand, will eat this for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night snack.
For the kids, there is hagelslag (sprinkles) or vlokken (flakes). Sprinkles are essentially sprinkles, like you put on ice cream in the US. They come in different colors. The flakes are more like chocolate curls, and you can get dark, milk, white, or a combination. There are also muisjes, which are made from aniseeds and coated in colored sugar. The application is the same for all: you spread butter on bread or beschuit (zwieback) and then pour on the sprinkles or flakes (the butter is just so they stick). It is very common to have pink or blue beschuit met muisjes to celebrate the birth of a child! Hippo loves the vlokken, but Froggy prefers Nutella on his bread.
LUNCH & DINNER
Pancakes, of course! They’re not for breakfast around here! There are pancakes houses (pannenkoekenhuis) all over the Netherlands. And don’t get the wrong idea! They are NOT anything like IHOP! These restaurants usually have plenty of character. And they mostly – though not always exclusively – serve pancakes! Dutch pancakes (pannenkoeken) are much thinner than American pancakes, and are usually as big as your plate. They can be sweet (zoet) – with Nutella or fruit – or savory (hartig) – with meats and cheese. The tables usually have powdered sugar and stroop (a thick syrup, much like molasses). Our boys like it best with Nutella. I’m a fan of strawberries and cream. Although apple with cinnamon and sugar is delicious, too. I’ve never gone for the savory. The pancakes themselves are a bit sweet, so that doesn’t sound like a mix I’d enjoy. We ate pannenkoeken at least once a week, I think! They had them at the Efteling and Zaanse Schans. And you can also search for pannenkoekenhuis, such as Hans & Grietje.
Here you see my pancake with strawberries & cream; Froggy’s kid-sized pancake with nutella; the boys like to roll them up and pick them up to eat them; then there is the stroop; finally, you can see one of the pancake ovens: it rotates to cook the pancakes from the top and the bottom! More info on this post.
A cousin of the pancake are the poffertjes – a small, round puffed pancake. To get these, you need to look for a poffertjeskraam (or hut). They have a huge cast iron griddle, specially designed to make 240 at one time! (Yes, we counted!) I have a pan at home, but it only makes 15 at a time! For more on the poffertjes, see this post. Below you see a poffertjeskraam, the griddle, and if you look closely, you’ll see the poffertjes buried under a blanket of powdered sugar and a slab of butter.
If you can’t get either of these breakfast-for-lunch/dinner options, another easy choice for the kiddos is a tosti. It is essentially a panini or grilled cheese. They often come with ham and cheese, but you can always get just cheese. Luckily, PER has raised our boys on Gouda cheese, so they are used to the taste. It’s generally pretty mild, though. See this post for another tosti in Amsterdam.
I’m not sure, but PER’s favorite thing to eat in the Netherlands just might be shoarma (spellings vary, but this is how we see it in the NL). It’s similar to gyro – giant meat on a spit and slowly grilled, then shaved off. It’s usually lamb, but you can also get chicken (kip). It’s often eaten in a soft pita (seriously, I’ve never had a pita like this in the States!) with a sauce. I don’t even know what the other sauces are, because we always eat ours with garlic sauce. This year, even Froggy liked it!
PER complains that the pizza in the US is just not the same. He’s right. Pizza in Europe just tastes different. The crust is nice and thin – but not like thin-crust pizza you get in the States. I can’t explain it! It often comes on a plate, uncut. And you eat it with a fork and knife. But here’s a tip: if you want pepperoni on your pizza, DO NOT order peperoni – get salami instead! Just like in Germany, peperoni is a hot pepper, not a meat! Below, you see PER’s ham & mushroom, my caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil), and Hippo’s margherita (plain cheese and sauce) pizzas.
I was surprised when we went to lunch in Muiden, and my dad ordered a sandwich with smoked eel (gerookte paling)! He enjoyed it – said it left a smell on his fingers like when he’s been fishing all day and cleaning the fish. Mmmmmm! PER also enjoys smoked eel. But it might not be for everyone. See for yourself:
Before you even get to your main meal, you might want to try the brood met kruidenboter (bread with herb butter). The butter has garlic and other simple herbs. If you like bread, you’ll probably like this! (Sorry, no photo!)
SNACKS & SNACK BARS
The Dutch love their frietjes (French fries)! And they make delicious fries at that! You can even find a snack bar that just serves fries! Of course, the Dutch like to eat them with mayo. But I’m still a ketchup girl.
Other snack bar items include burgers, chicken (kip) nuggets, lumpias (egg rolls), shoarma, frikandel (PER calls this mystery meat – but it’s kind of like a minced meat hot dog), and other breaded & fried foods. PER’s favorite is the kroket. He usually gets broodje kroket – or kroket on a roll. They are made with meat ragu, breaded, and fried. And you eat them with mustard. I’m not a big fan of mustard, so once I ate one with ketchup. Big no-no! I thought our friends might throw me out of the country! 🙂 Snack bars can be open for lunch, but sometimes do not open until late afternoon and stay open into the night. They are often a place you go after you’ve been out dancing or to a bar.
A variation of the kroket is bitterballen. They don’t have exactly the same filling, but something similar, I think. And they are small and round. (Sorry, no photo!)
DESSERT & OTHER TREATS
How about some apple pie? Here it’s called appeltaart. And it’s quite different from the pie you eat at Thanksgiving. The crust is denser, almost cake-like. It can have different dried fruits in it, too, like raisins or cranberries. If PER wants something small for lunch, sometimes he just has appeltaart!
In every town, you can find a shop that sells ice cream (ijs) – usually several. Snack bars also offer ice cream, too. And often you’ll find soft ice cream. Usually when I’m in the Netherlands, we get soft ice on a regular basis. Somehow on this trip, it didn’t happen. Maybe it was too cold 🙂 Don’t expect some mammoth scoops here – if you order one scoop, you get one small scoop. Here is Froggy’s almost- eaten cone of vanille:
Then there are stroopwafel – a kind of cookie made from two very thin waffles and a smear of stroop in the middle. We found a stand at the market in Delft where they were making them fresh. And they were enormous! Some were also dipped in nutella, but I have to say, I didn’t care for it. The two tastes seemed to be competing with one another. Froggy liked it, though!
Finally, I will mention one of my favorite Dutch treats: oliebollen. Usually, they are only found around New Year’s. But we got lucky and found them being sold at the Efteling. They are balls of fried dough, covered in powdered sugar. Much like a doughnut – but different, of course! Heel lekker!! (very tasty)
I’m sure there are plenty of other foods I didn’t get to here. How about vla (custard, or pudding) and vlaai (tart, originally from Limburg)?
And what about the cheese?! See my post on Clara Maria for info on a small, local dairy farm. We still haven’t made it to a cheese market … next time??
There are drinks, too… That’s going to have to be another post!