what’s the first thing you think of when you think of amsterdam? what’s a specialty the city is known for that makes travelers from all over the world flock to this metropolis of canals and churches? what famous item is wrapped up in the identity of this global destination and truly makes amsterdam amsterdam?
obviously, it’s the raw herring. if that’s not what you were thinking of, it should be.
discovering local foods is one of my absolute favorite things about traveling. it’s a great excuse to talk to people, to make new friends with random strangers, shopkeepers and restauranteurs, to learn new things about food and culture and identity, and to sample some delicious and often deliciously weird things along the way. sanne, one of our very gracious dutch hosts, recommended we try the fresh herring, which has generally been lightly salted or brined to conserve. for you history buffs, apparently herring has played a major role in the historical and economic development of the netherlands dating back to the 14th century. unfortunately, we forgot to follow up with a recommendation for a good place to get the herring. luckily, the fantastic foodiefest street of haarlemmerstraat came through for the win as i randomly walked by a classic herring vendor on a bridge right near the apartment. turns out that stubbe haring is actually considered one of the best herring wagons in town. success!
it’s even better when the classic local dish also involves a traditional method of eating, which is to hold it up over your mouth like a mama bird with a juicy worm for her baby and let it slither down your throat. you can see the traditional dutch lady in the poster doing it successfully – root and i wanted the raw onions and pickles as well so we stuck with the hot dog bun style sandwich version.
raw herring might sound scary, but it’s actually quite tasty. a little slimy, a little gooshy, a little fishy but the soft pliability of the hot dog bun and the piquant crunch of the onions and pickles make for one highly enjoyable little dutch package. in fact, it was delicious enough that we decided to immediately buy a second one but with the smoked herring this time.
wedged into its happy little white bread cocoon, the firm and salty smoked herring is absolutely ridiculously phenomenally good. it doesn’t have the slick fleshiness that might frighten people away from the raw herring and the smokiness adds a fantastic undercurrent of flavor. michaelangelo, a world-traveling ninja turtle whose jetsetting likeness has been captured in many exotic locales around the planet, also enjoyed the smoked herring a great deal as you can tell by the victorious fist pump.
of course, michaelangelo being an eternally curious global citizen and connoisseur of local specialties, would never leave a city without sampling all the traditional delicacies. okay, according to his story he only strolled through the red light district. but we’ve caught him on camera taking full advantage of amsterdam’s other fully legal delights.
surfing a wave of dutch cheese with a can of heineken and a fat spliff – that’s worth a victory fist pump for sure.