Dutch Food – A selection & Cultural discussion

It’s not easy to describe our Dutch cuisine. It’s a mix of many foods, with elements of Indonesian cooking, but especially a lot of simple foods. It’s worthwhile to share those with you, but not every Dutch food can be discussed in a very food sciency manner (as we like doing here). So this post will group all those nice Dutch foods that don’t have their own post, but should be known by those looking to understand the Dutch and their food. We’ll be looking into:

  • Dutch breakfast peculiarities: chocolate sprinkles
  • Sweet and salty treats (that no foreigner seems to enjoy): drop
  • Fried fish on the go: kibbeling
  • New Year’s Eve snacks: apple beignets

Chocolate sprinkles for breakfast

Is there a food you can’t go without? One you take with you on every holiday or trip you’re going? For a lot of Dutch people chocolate sprinkles are a typical example of such a food. You might wonder why these are so special, can’t you get chocolate sprinkles everywhere?

Yes, indeed, but the Dutch don’t take the sprinkles along to decorate a cake or muffin. Instead, We Dutch eat chocolate sprinkles for breakfast, by sprinkling them on bread. Best eaten with a little butter spread on the bread first (to prevent the sprinkles from falling of too easily) and on a regular slice of bread. That’s it. And don’t be surprised if you see both adults and children eating this for breakfast or lunch.

The sprinkles have been invented about a century ago by a man who owned a candy factory, Venco (currently still famous for it’s drop). These sprinkles proved to be quite a success. From the late 1930’s another big company started producing chocolate sprinkles. This company, Venz, still exists and still makes chocolate sprinkles. Over the years loads of different sprinkles types have been developed. You can find white sprinkles, milk, dark chocolate, extra cocoa, extra thick (those are the one on the photo), extra long, extra small. Just about any variation has been made or is being made, all to get some variation in your breakfast or lunch.

bread with chocolate sprinkles

A sweet (peculiar) snack: Drop

When writing about Dutch food there is one sweet that simply cannot be forgotten: drop! Drop translates into ‘liquorice’, but it isn’t just liquorice. There are actually a lot of different drop varieties. They can differ in texture and shape, but also flavour. The two main flavour categories are sweet and salt drop although also salt drop contains quite a bit of sugar.

So what makes drop drop? The main ingredient of most varieties is sugar and it will also contain starches or a gelling agent, like gelatin. The main taste is provided by two other ingredients: liquorice root (zoethoutwortel in Dutch) and sal ammoniac (salmiak in Dutch). Liquorice root is a relatively common ingredient. It is used in very foods and especially candies throughout the world. However, sal ammoniac is far less common.

Sal ammoniac is a salt and can be described by the following chemical formula: NH4Cl. Candy seems to be one of the few applications in food, if not the only one. As far as I know the only other place it’s used frequently in food is in Scandinavia. There they sell salmiak candy as well, which is even more intense than the Dutch versions! However, since it often lacks the liquorice and the texture, it is different from drop.

Dutch fried fish: Kibbeling

When going to a market in the Netherlands chances are quite high you’ll run across a fish stand at some point. If you do, it’s pretty likely as well that they’ll be selling fried fish. It’s just fish with some sauce, no other condiments or adds like fries or salads. Probably the most common one of the fried fishes is the so-called kibbeling. These small pieces of fried fish are a perfect snack when out doing your shopping.

Whereas we’ve spoken about the science of kibbeling (and fried fish in general) before, here we’ll focus on the cultural side of it.

What is kibbeling?

As mentioned above, kibbeling is a staple on a Dutch market and is generally sold fresh from fish stands. Kibbeling itself has been made by taking pieces of white fish, coat them in a batter and frying them until golden brown. If the fish is of a good quality, it’s soft and juicy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.

Originally, kibbeling used to be made with cod. Nowadays though various types of fish are used such as pollock. On the internet a lot of discussions can be found arguing why it is such a shame that cod isn’t always used anymore (e.g. here and here). It’s the type of discussion you can find for just about every traditional type of food. It shows a food has some history and it shows people find it important, which is good, isn’t it?

kibbeling with sauce
This is how you’ll buy your kibbeling on the market, in a plastic tray, with a dollop of sauce either on top or on the side.

Where to buy kibbeling

It’s not hard to find kibbeling in the Netherlands. Just about every weekly market (often on Saturday) in just about every city will have at least one stand where you can get it. Apart from kibbeling they might also sell fresh fish or a whole selection of other fried fish (such as mussels or shrimps). Other common products are of course herring (raw, with little onion pieces) or a “lekkerbek” (which is actually quite similar to kibbeling, but it’s a large piece of fish and tends to be a different variety).

New Year’s Eve snack: apple beignets

New Year’s Eve means eating oliebollen in the Netherlands. But of course, once you start frying doughs why limit yourself to oliebollen? One of my other favorites on New Year’s Eve are apple beignets. These are deep fried pieces of apple (but you can also make them with other fruits such as pineapple) surrounded with a batter and eaten with lots (and lots) of icing sugar. The apples turn very soft by frying them in hot oil whereas the outside is slightly (not too much though) crispy.

Apple beignets are not that hard to make, once you know a little about batters and deep frying (didn’t we just discuss kibbeling?). Since we didn’t yet share a recipe in this post, let’s share one for the apple beignets. The recipe uses two agents to increase the amount of bubbles and air in the batter: baking powder & carbonated water. The carbonated water will make a light batter, mix it in quick and use straight away or else all the bubbles will be gone. The baking powder on the other hand mainly works once the apple is in the pan, the heat will ‘activate’ the baking powder.

Dutch Food - Apple beignets, Deep fried apple
  • 4 apples (I used Elstar apples, the best apples to use are slightly sour)
  • 110g flour + extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt (can also be less)
  • 1 egg
  • 200ml carbonated water
  • oil for frying (I used sunflower oil)
  1. Cut the apple in 4 pieces and remove the center, cut these parts in 4 to 5 slices (you can also use any other way of cutting them in slices of course). You don't have to peel the apples, the skin will become very soft, I would advise to keep it on.
  2. Heat up oil (I did it in a wok). I put a thermometer in, it was pretty hard to keep the temperature stable, but I got best results with temperatures around 180C.
  3. Mix the baking powder, salt and flour. Add the egg and water, whisk quickly (not too long, no problem if there are some clumps).
  4. Dust the apple slices with a thin layer of flour, cover them with batter and put them in the oil.
  5. Fry until a nice golden brown.



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