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I think it’s safe to say that most people know next to nothing about Dutch cuisine and I think more people may even venture to ask, “is there actually such a thing?” But for me, my visit to the Netherlands not only was a visit to a completely new country but also a chance to explore a completely new cuisine because you know what? Just like in England on my London food tour last June, I knew there would be more to Dutch cuisine than popular opinion says and I was right. During my brief time in the Dutch capital, I would discover there are so many amazing traditional Dutch foods to try. I ended up booking with Secret Food Tours Amsterdam, the same company I had taken for my incredible food tour in Istanbul (and who I would also do a food tour with in Berlin once I left Amsterdam and headed into Germany).
Secret Food Tours Amsterdam has you and your stomach explore the Jordaan neighborhood. It’s most famous for being home to the Anne Frank House but it’s truly so much more than that. It’s a trendy section of Amsterdam replete with narrow canals and streets. Once you venture away from the ever teeming area around Prinsengracht 263, you’ll find a different side of the Dutch capital entirely-one with indie boutiques, pubs frequented by locals and not tourists, and uber- hip eateries not beset with massive tour groups.
I truly have never had a food tour guide that wasn’t good, but when you’ve taken as many as I have all around the world, some are even better and more memorable than others and Helen was one of those. From the moment I met her at the meeting spot near Westerkerk church, she was a true gem and delight, complete with motherly concern. (Although it didn’t rain like it did on my Paris food tour earlier in the month, it was very cold in Amsterdam and my coat wasn’t nearly warm enough, as I had come from the south of France where it was a lot warmer.) Needless to say, Helen and the other tour participants knew I was freezing every second I spent outdoors.
There were a total of five stops on the tour and I’ll list below the foods we had at each one. As is the custom with Secret Food Tours, they prefer the business names of the stops to be kept secret which is why I won’t be listing them. If you’re truly dying to know what they are, send me an email! And when you’re done eating and need to walk off all those calories you just consumed, be sure to have an itinerary ready of some of the best things to do in Amsterdam.
Plaques that denote the name or profession of the owner.
I’ll chalk it up to culinary ignorance, but I always thought “Dutch pancakes” were an American thing, just with a foreign country name. But no, I was mistaken. The next day I would have a massive Dutch pancake but on the first stop, we had poffertjes which translates to “little brothers.” So instead of one large pancake, there were many tiny ones. They’re eaten very simply, served with just butter and powdered sugar.
Beemster & Gouda Cheeses
One of the stops on my Paris food tour featured cheese, but I have to say I much preferred the Dutch cheese stop on this tour instead. At a delightful cheese shop, we tried three types of beemster and gouda cheeses-a young cheese that was aged about 1 month, an old cheese that was aged about 1 year, and a cumin spiced cheese. The cumin cheese was better than I thought it would be although I don’t think I could have eaten large amounts of it, not like the young and old varieties. I did end up buying a chunk of it and bringing it home after I happily learned one can transport vacuum-sealed cheese in checked luggage.
Herring, Kibbling & Korenwyn
I tried raw herring when I was in Copenhagen so I guess it was only fitting that I would try it once more in the Netherlands. Here at the third stop, we had raw “virgin” herring along with pickled gherkins and onions. The herring was not as bad as I feared, but to be honest, I much preferred the gherkins and onions. The kibbling, which is deep fried breaded cod, was much tastier and you could tell, high quality fish. To wash it all down, we drank Korenwyn, a Dutch grain spirit. No matter the country, the phrase “it could put hair on one’s chest” is always appropriate.
Wheat Beer & Bitterballen
Naturally there was zero Heineken being served on a food tour. Instead there was a wheat beer with a hint of lemon and coriander from the brewery ‘t ij.” I went more nuts over the bitterballen, round, deep fried croquets filled with a meat ragout. They were just as good as the ones my Spanish host mom used to make. I could have easily eaten a whole plate of these myself.
As I would learn, stamppot is basically the Dutch version of comfort food, the ultimate meal to have on a cold day, and the oldest traditional dish in Dutch cuisine. It consists of mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions and is usually served with a meat of some sort. On the food tour, we had it with smoked sausage and a Dutch meatball. I could have just kept eating the mashed potatoes, they were that good. The wonderful thing about the stamppot is that it’s something I know I could easily make myself; bitterballen, maybe not so much. This stop and the one before were definitely my favorites on the tour, not just for the tastiest food but also because both felt so very “Dutch” (to me at least).
Amsterdam was a completely new city for me and I’m so glad I got to experience a wonderful food tour on my first visit there.