Dutch cuisine and culinary customs

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Most Dutch eat three meals a day. Dinner is eaten at around 6 in the evening and usually consists of the traditional meat, potato and vegetable meal. But the Netherlands is also home to other cultures and external influences can be found in the kitchen of the average Dutch household. When eating out in the Netherlands, the selection of restaurants and cafés to choose from ranges from Indonesian, Chinese and Surinamese to Turkish, Italian, Mediterranean and more. All the same, the Dutch still have a uniquely Dutch cuisine and traditional culinary customs.

Mealtimes and customs

The average Dutchman eats three meals a day. More time is usually spent on dinner (usually a hot meal) than breakfast or lunch. Lunch often consists of bread and various cold toppings and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Most Dutch eat lunch between noon and 1 pm. Compared to Southern Europeans, the Dutch eat dinner relatively early, usually at around 6 or 7 in the evening. It is becoming more popular to eat out for lunch, although the dinner trend is now shifting back to a home-cooked meal, often enjoyed in the company of friends.

Stew (stamppot)

In the Netherlands, stew is a traditional winter meal and consists of meat, potatoes and vegetables. The various ingredients are prepared in one or more pans and then mashed together.  The most popular Dutch stews are kale or sauerkraut stew with smoked sausage and fried bacon, hodgepodge with potatoes, onions carrots and pork meat rib or rib of beef, and stewed potatoes with apples and bacon or black pudding. Some Dutch like to make a hole for gravy in the stew.

Pea soup (snert)

Pea soup, also referred to as snert, is a thick soup made from split peas. Pea soup is found in other countries, but the Dutch version is extremely thick and creamy. The Dutch usually eat this soup during the winter, together with rye bread topped with smoked bacon.

Cheese

The Netherlands is a real cheese country. More than 674,000 tons of kilos of cheese are produced each year and Dutch cheese is exported to 130 countries around the world. Familiarity with names like Gouda, Edam and Alkmaar (where the famous cheese markets are held) stretches far beyond the national borders. The Dutch eat cheese as a topping on bread, a custom not shared by many non-Dutch.

Salted herring (Hollandse Nieuwe)

Salted herring is referred to as Hollandse Nieuwe, and is the first young herring of the season that is suitable for consumption. Herring may only carry the Hollands designation if it contains a certain percentage of fat and is prepared in the traditional Dutch manner, i.e. cleaned, filleted and salted. Every year, this herring is introduced in a ceremonial manner at the end of May or in early June. A traditional auctioning of the first barrel of Hollandse herring takes place in Scheveningen, the proceeds of which are donated to charity. The Dutch eat herring as a snack. They grab it by the tail, cover it in raw onions (optional) and hold it in the air in front of their mouth and eat it bite by bite.

Poffertjes

Poffertjes are a traditional Dutch snack similar to pancakes, but smaller, thicker and sweeter. Poffertjes are usually served with butter and sugar on top. They are extremely popular with children. Most outdoor markets and fairs in the Netherlands have a stand selling this treat.

French fries

French fries are not a Dutch invention, but the Dutch have their own unique customs for eating them. Popular toppings are mayonnaise, mayonnaise with peanut sauce, and mayonnaise with ketchup and raw onions, combinations that tend to stupefy visitors from other countries. French fries with a variety of toppings are sold in the Netherlands at snack bars. The people of the northern provinces refer to them as patat, while the southerners call them friet.

Vending machines

Snack bars are an integral part of Dutch culture. Eating snacks is not a custom found only in the Netherlands, but eating snacks from vending machines is typically Dutch. Hot vending machine snacks include frikadel (minced meat hot dog), croquette and fried croquette balls.

Liquorice

Nowhere in the world do they eat as much liquorice as in the Netherlands. The Dutch are truly addicted to these salty sweets. The main ingredient in Dutch liquorice is a root extract from the liquorice plant. Dutch liquorice is available both sweet and salty and in a wide range of shapes and flavours. It can be bought anywhere in the country. With an average consumption rate of 32 million kilos per year, the Netherlands is truly a liquorice lover’s dream country.

Chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag)

Every day in the Netherlands, no fewer than 750,000 slices of bread are consumed with hagelslag on top, a topping made of chocolate or coloured sugar sprinkles, making it the most popular bread topping in the country. It is a typical Dutch product that is often unavailable in other countries.

Aniseed comfits (muisjes)

Muisjes are aniseed comfits eaten as a bread topping and available with a pink, blue or white outer layer of sugar. It is a Dutch custom to eat rusk with aniseed comfits to celebrate the birth of a baby: pink/white for a girl and blue/white for a boy.

Treacle waffle (stroopwafel)

The stroopwafel is a typical Dutch treat. It can best be described as a waffle cookie that has been cut through the middle and ‘glued’ back together again with caramel. They are best eaten warm, although also often eaten cold. More than 22 million packages of stroopwafels are sold each year in the Netherlands.