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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

 We're heading to Amsterdam to Conduct Some On-Site Herring Research

Check this out from: Dutch 

Amsterdam delicacy: Herring

Tourist guides tend to describe traditional Dutch food as ‘boring’ and ‘uninspired.’ That’s an understandable mistake, given the fact that most meals consist of vegetables, potatoes, and meat.
In fact, no food better represents traditional Dutch cuisine than stamppot– potatoes mashed with vegetables and served with Dutch smoked sausage. Stamppot is a reflection of traditional Dutch values: soberness, hard labor, and moderation — values rooted in Calvanism, and still very much in evidence outside Holland’s big cities.
That said, in many gourmet restaurants the dish has been elevated to the status of haute cuisine. Small wonder: it’s good food, at a good price.


Without a doubt, the Dutch food most frowned upon by tourists, expats, and immigrants, is herring — a popular, and healthy, snack. (Among other things, herring lowers your bad cholesterol).
Traditionally, the fish (minus its head) is eaten by grabbing it by the tail, throwing one’s head back, and — while gently lowering the fish — biting off tasty morsels.
This pose has caused many tourists to assume that the fish is eaten raw. However, herring is gutted on board of the fishing vessel. Then it is salted, and next it is frozen for a minimum of two days. This process affects the fish’s taste and tenderness.
You’ll note that in most cities herring is not eaten the traditional way. Rather, many people prefer to have the herring served cut in bite-sized piece on a piece of silver-backed paper, along with finely diced onions and some sliced pickles. A toothpick serves as a utensil.
By the way, herring may taste saltier the further you travel east in the Netherlands. This hails back to the time when supplies of herring took longer to travel from the harbors to the customers. Salted and frozen for a longer time, the herring came out tasting differently — and through the years customers have gotten used to their local flavors.
And the taste? Hard to describe. Suffice it to say that for most people herring is love at first bite.

Hollandse Nieuwe: ‘New Dutch Herring’

Herring fishing occurs year-round, but the fat content (and thus the taste) of the fish varies with the season.
Herring Cart in Amsterdam
Herring carts are a familiar site throughout Amsterdam — and the rest of Holland
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The best herring is called Hollandse nieuwe (Holland new). This is herring that has been caught between the middle of May and the end of June. Before that the herring is too thin, and after it is too fat.
By law, Hollandse Nieuwe must have at least 16% fat. There are a number of other requirements — including the fact that the herring must have been frozen for at least 2 days in order to kill possible parasites.
On the last Saturday in May, herring boats sail out from the harbors of Scheveningen and IJmuiden to start the hunt for the year’s new herring catch. The first vessel to return with the much-praised Hollandse Nieuwe wins this prestigious contest. The first barrel of new herring is auctioned, usually fetching a handsome price.
- Source: Dutch Delight: Typically Dutch Food
This year (2008) no herring may be sold as Hollandse Nieuwe before June 3rd. Any fishmonger (or anyone else, for that matter) who does so anyway will be fined €10.800.
Herring is a treat any time, but Hollandse Nieuwe is herring at its tastiest.
That said, ask herring lovers were to find the best suppliers. Several newspapers — the Dutch Algemeen Dagblad (AD) in particular — publish yearly taste tests, and not all herring carts (or shops) are as impressive as the top ones.
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