Once maligned as stodgy, Dutch cuisine is finally receiving the international attention it deserves. At its best, it is unabashedly rich comfort fare designed to keep spirits high through the long, drizzly winters. The Netherlands has a proud tradition of baking, and the country’s sweets often use generous lashings of butter, dark syrup and fruit — with delicious results.Savory offerings take advantage of everything from pristine local seafood to exotic spices. To fully experience the flavors of the city, you’ll want to try these specialties on your Amsterdam food tour.
While commercial stroopwafels, which may contain cheap hydrogenated fats and preservatives, are often dry, these confections can be a delight when made properly. In the ideal incarnation, two thin, cinnamon-scented wafers encase a sumptuous layer of caramel, creating a subtly sweet treat suitable for nibbling at any time of day.
One bite of a rich stroopwafel at Lanskroon will make you forget every inferior version you’ve ever eaten. Do as the Dutch do and warm it over a piping-hot cup of coffee until the cookie softens and the syrupy interior almost melts.
Admittedly, Amsterdam’s favorite snack can sometimes be a tough sell for first-time visitors. Served raw with plenty of pickles and onions, herring makes for a pungent, potently flavored bite on the go. It may not be the kind of food to wolf down before a date, but many find themselves hooked on the tangy, salty, savory taste after trying it.
For the full local experience, order yours at a street cart such as the popular Haring & Zo. Connoisseurs celebrate the arrival of spring, when the herring are at their peak.
These steering-wheel-sized pancakes have the delicacy of a Parisian crepe and a thin, custardy interior reminiscent of their American counterparts. Whether you order them sweet or savory, pannenkoeken are equally enjoyable for breakfast, lunch or dinner. With just four tables, Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs is one of the most atmospheric places to sample them.
A pinch of buckwheat flour adds a faintly sour note and a touch of complexity to the yeasty batter. For an unconventional, slightly more sophisticated twist, head to The Pancake Bakery and order them with walnut ice cream, amaretto and a cloud of whipped cream.
This isn’t a single dish, but rather a whole procession of Indonesian specialties ordered as a grand communal feast. Dutch colonists in the 1800s fell hard for Indonesia’s fiery, intensely flavorful and widely varied cuisine. In addition to precious spices such as peppercorns, cinnamon and nutmeg, ships brought back recipes that remain popular to this day.
A proper rijsttafel is an occasion for celebration and often includes gado-gado (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), nasi goreng (fried rice), satay and other staples. Tempo Doeloe is one of the most authentic places in town to sample this piece of culinary history.
Traditionally served with a wedge of gouda and a mug of ale at any of the humble taverns in town, these bite-size meatballs are appearing in all sorts newfangled flavors these days. The old-school variations are addictive enough on their own, but a few of the hip purveyors are worth checking out.
Catch De Bitterballen Brigade at one of the food markets to try a batch made with duck confit and onion compote or truffled mushrooms.
Sandwiches may sound rather banal, but this is a nation that takes its bread, cheese and ham very, very seriously. As a result, broodjes are an essential part of the Dutch diet and often come with superior ingredients.
Pick up one to go at De Laatste Kruimel, a cozy bakery that offers everything from traditional varieties to versions made with taleggio, porchetta and other gourmet additions. The heaping portions of hearty quiches, stratas and other baked goods are equally exceptional here.