The Humble Kroket

Heather Tucker, vrijdag 9 augustus 2013

Kroketten and I have not had the best of introductions. The first time I ate one, I innocently thought that the creamy inside was made of potato. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I came across a lump of meat.

“Ewww! There was a piece of meat in my kroket!”

“Of course there was. It is made from meat. What did you expect there to be inside?”

“Potato.”

Stifled laughter

However, with an invitation to visit the Van Dobben factory, one of the top kroketten brands in the Netherlands, it was time to give the kroket a second chance.

The Van Dobben name stretches back to 1945 when Aat van Dobben opened a deli in the heart of Amsterdam with Eugenie Laaper (who would later become his wife). The name of the company was Eetsalon Van Dobben and the original deli can still be visited today in Amsterdam at Korte Regulierdwarsstraat 5.

After a brief introduction and welcome drink our small group had the opportunity to enter one of the test kitchens with master kroket maker, Piet Brink. Piet talked us through all the ingredients and the process of making a proper kroket, before we got our hands dirty rolling our very own kroketten.

Despite the rumours that sometimes go around, the kroket mixture is made up of fresh meat, butter,  bouillon, flour and a blend of herbs and spices – the exact combination of which Piet was not quite willing to part with. There is also a vegetarian version for the non-meat eaters.

I also learned that it is actually a part of the eating process to squash your kroket between the bread roll to make it easier to eat. While this usually results in some of the kroket squishing out the sides, Van Dobben have even come up with a new bread roll that is slightly larger and shaped just perfectly to allow for optimal squishing.

After taste testing our creations it was time to don red hair nets and white factory coats. We were heading into the factory. I am a real sucker for behind the scenes tours, so this glimpse into the mass manufacturing side of the kroket was the part I was most looking forward to.

In the factory we saw all the different phases of production, including mixing, cooling, rolling and packing. Never again will I look at a box of kroketten in the same way, especially one of the larger hand packed boxes. It is the gentle, nimble fingers that ensure that the kroketten are not misshaped and odd looking when placed in the box.

At the end of the visit I left the factory with a newfound respect for the humble and often misunderstood kroket – and maybe even a slight craving for one.