Food in Amsterdam
Even though the Netherlands aren’t internationally well known for their haute cuisine, there are some tasty Dutch meals and snacks that will make water your mouth during your trip to Amsterdam. Take a glimpse at our suggestions below and start selecting your favourite Dutch delights.
A common Dutch expression is “Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg” (meaning “If you just behave normally, you are already crazy enough”), which also could be linked to a typical Dutch breakfast. It’s a pretty simple affair. Dutch people like to start the day with a slice of wholemeal or white bread (called ‘boterham’) with a large variety of sweet and salty toppings to choose from. For instance, those with a sweet tooth love to top their boterham with ‘hagelslag’, which are chocolate sprinkles, just like the ones used to decorate cakes. You can find hagelslag in every Dutch supermarket, in various forms and flavours (even fruity ones!). Of course, there are plenty of other toppings to choose from, like peanut butter, jam, chocolate spread and gingerbread spread (‘speculoos’).
To get the day off to a fresh start, the Dutch like to drink fruit-flavoured milk, tea or a koffie verkeerd’,
which is coffee containing more milk than coffee.
Of course, let´s not forget about the famous Dutch cheeses. Most Dutch people prefer Gouda cheese, which has a mild flavour and belongs to the ‘young cheeses’ category (‘jonge kaas’), but diehards prefer Old Amsterdam or old Edam. The flavour and smell of these ‘old cheeses’ (‘oude kaas’) are much stronger. Fancy trying them for yourself? Find the cheeses shop Cheese and More at Leidsestraat in Amsterdam and dare to try a famously smelly variety.
During lunch time, which is around noon, Dutch people like to eat a ‘boterham’ (a half sandwich) or two at home with a fried egg on the side. However, in Amsterdam and other large cities it’s becoming more common for locals to go out for a tasty lunch. Here, more luxurious sandwiches are on the menu, like a club sandwich or a ‘broodje gezond’ -
a baguette topped with fresh vegetables, ham, cheese and a hard-boiled egg. Dutch people tend to prefer cold dishes for lunch, with hot meals reserved for the evening.
Traditionally, Dutch people have dinner quite early, with most families settling down for their evening meal around 6pm. A typical Dutch supper is ‘stamppot’, which is again fairly simple conceptually - mashed potatoes, mashed vegetables and smoked sausage or meat balls on the side. If you want to eat this meal like a Dutchman, make a hole in the middle of the dish and fill it with gravy and mash. Famous stamppotten
(endive stew), ‘boerenkoolstampot’
(kale) and ‘hutspot
(mashed carrots and onions). Because stamppot is a fairly stodgy meal, most Dutch people regard it as a winter dish.
If you’d rather eat something sweet for dinner, then the Netherlands are your ideal place. The Dutch often eat pancakes during the evening. Known as ‘pannenkoeken’, local pancakes are larger and flatter than American version, and topped with sweet spreads, like pancake syrup, powdered sugar and jam, or savoury toppings like cheese, ham or bacon. Of course, you could always opt for a pancake with bacon and sweet syrup to satisfy both sweet and savoury hankerings.
Before devouring the pancakes, Dutch people like to start this dinner with a bowl of pea soup, known as ‘erwtensoep’, which is normally eaten during winter time. You can find
a bunch of pancake restaurants, known as ‘pannenkoekenhuisjes’
in Amsterdam - Upstairs at Grimburgwal is one of our favourites.
Other Amsterdam eateries worth seeking out for an evening meal are Geertje, Speijkervet
serve you the best of the Dutch cuisine.
Sweets and snacks
Dutch people normally take a break in the afternoon by enjoying a little snack, called ‘tussendoortje’. These can be fruity biscuits, a slice of sweet Dutch gingerbread (called ontbijtkoek) or some tasty ‘poffertjes’,
which are small pancakes, served with sugar powder and melted butter. One of the most traditional pastries in the Netherlands is ‘appeltaart’ - apple pie with raisins and cinnamon. Because this pie has been around for years, some like to call it ‘Oma’s appeltaart’,
meaning granny’s apple pie.
If you’re more a fan of creamy pastries, try a ‘tompouce’, which is a pink glazed puff pastry with custard cream in the middle. ‘Stroopwafels’
are also highly popular among the Dutch and foreigners alike. Stroopwafels are waffles with thin layers, baked with caramel syrup inside, and the best thing to do is to heat the stroopwafel in the oven for a minute and enjoy the smooth flavour afterwards. In Amsterdam you’ll find stroopwafels in every bakery and supermarket.
One acquired taste that might not go down so well, however, is ‘drop’, or liquorice. You’re likely to come across it in many shapes and sizes in Amsterdam supermarkets, such as Dutch favourites ‘muntdrop’ (sweet liquorice), ‘honingdrop’ (honey liquorice) and salty varieties, like ‘boerderijdrop’. When a baby is born, the Dutch celebrate this joyful occasion with ‘beschuit met muisjes’- round bits of toast topped with aniseed-flavoured sprinkles. The blue sprinkles are used when a boy is born, and the pink ones, unsurprisingly, for a girl.
In Dutch snack bar you’ll find a range of fried snacks to choose from, for example ‘frikandel’ (minced-meat pork sausages), ‘kroket’ (croquette filled with chopped beef or veal) or a patatje oorlog (literally meaning ‘war fries’ and served with onions, peanut sauce and mayonnaise). A Dutch party isn’t complete without the serving of ‘bitterballen’. This fried snack is the small round version of a kroket and is often served with mustard sauce to dip the bitterbal in. Order a portion of bitterballen at the bar next to your Heineken, and the chances are you’ll be hooked.
Dutch cuisine not sounding that appealing to you? No worries - Amsterdam is the most multicultural city in the world, with restaurants serving meals from virtually every conceivable country. Restaurants helpfully provide menus in English as well, just in case your Dutch skills are proving a little rusty.