A Gastronomic Journey

Netherlands, Amsterdam Guide (A): A Gastronomic Journey

Take a culinary voyage through the tastes, sights and smells of Amsterdam. Wander through the city’s most picturesque streets and canals, stopping off at shops, markets and buildings that represent the gastronomic must-taste destinations. The tour will take in Amsterdam specialities, including raw herring, smoked ossenworst (a beef sausage), Dutch cheese, stroopwafels (caramel-filled wafer-thin biscuits), beer and jenever (a relative of gin).
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Walk Route

Guide Name: A Gastronomic Journey
Guide Location: Netherlands » Amsterdam
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Herring   Smoked Ossenworst   Gouda Cheese   Stroopwafels   Utrechtsestraat   Nieuwmarkt   De Prael Beer   Jenever and Liqueurs  
Author: Vicky Hampton
Author Bio: British-born food writer Vicky Hampton has been a passionate Amsterdammer since 2006. As well as writing restaurant reviews and food-related posts for her Amsterdam Foodie website, she has had articles published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Time Out Amsterdam. She has also done consultancy work and text for Amsterdam’s Eyewitness Guidebook. Her first cookbook, Working Lunch, is scheduled for publication at the end of 2010.
1
Herring

1) Herring

Dutch Herring is an acquired taste. The real delicacy is in late spring when the Hollandse Nieuwe (Dutch new) herring is caught in the North Sea and brought back to Holland in boxes of ice and salt. Each year, on a particular Saturday in June (known as Vlaggetjesdag), the new catch is brought to the harbour of Scheveningen (near The Hague) and judged by the experts. The first keg is auctioned off for a huge sum of money (58 thousand euros in 2010), all of which goes to charity. A couple of days later, the herring reaches the shops and stalls like the one you're visiting now. Herring lovers always eat their herring at this time of year because it's at its freshest.

In order to preserve the four species of herring, the fish are not caught the rest of the year; instead, the remainder of the catch is frozen ready to eat in the other months of the year. Any fish that are caught a little later, and are therefore not fit to be sold as Hollandse Nieuwe, are pickled. These are known as 'zure haring' and are similar to rollmops.

Herring is always eaten raw, either in one piece or cut up. You'll see plenty of pictures of women wearing traditional pointy white Dutch hats dangling whole herrings into their mouths by the tails! Either way, it's generally eaten with finely chopped raw onion on top, and gherkins as an optional extra. Not one to try before a first date!
Image by Bit Boy under Creative Commons License.
2
Smoked Ossenworst

2) Smoked Ossenworst

Ossenworst literally means oxen sausage. This Amsterdam speciality has its roots in Jewish tradition because, unlike most other sausages, it is made from minced beef rather than pork. The oxen were fattened in North Holland, and part of the meat was minced and salted. It was then mixed by hand with spices, including nutmeg, pepper, clove and mace, and stuffed into the lining of cattle guts. The sausages were cold smoked in oak or beech chips, at temperatures not exceeding 32 degrees centigrade, for a couple of days. More recently, ossenworst is made raw and unsmoked as well, although the smoked variety is the more traditional.

The butcher, Danny Reinhart, outside whose shop you're standing, won an award for his ossenworst in 2003. His secret? The meat must be well hung (for at least a week to 10 days) before use. He adds salt, pepper and mace and smokes the sausages for 12 hours at 44 degrees centigrade. This gives the sausages their characteristic dark rind, and leaves them raw and moist in the middle.

Amsterdammers eat ossenworst as a snack, sometimes with mustard, or on bread for lunch.
3
Gouda Cheese

3) Gouda Cheese

Outside of the Netherlands, Dutch cheese may be known for rubbery Gouda or flabby Edam. But mature, artisanal Dutch cheeses are nothing like their tasteless export counterparts. Cheese has been made in Holland since 400 AD. Nowadays, the country's dairy industry has an annual turnover of around 7 billion euros, and there are still cheese markets operating in five cities: Woerden, Alkmaar, Gouda, Edam and Hoorn.

De Reypenaer has been making cheese since 1906 in Woerden, about 40 kilometres south of Amsterdam. They use traditional methods to ripen their cheeses, with natural levels of humidity and fluctuations in temperature, which give the cheese its rich characteristics. The warehouse uses small-scale production methods with no artificial ingredients. With the exception of the chevre (goat's cheese), the Reypenaer's cheeses are made using milk from cows fed on grass, which produce intense tangy Goudas. You can taste them inside the shop.
4
Stroopwafels

4) Stroopwafels

A stroopwafel more closely resembles a biscuit than a waffle. First invented by a baker in Gouda in the late 18th century, these very Dutch biscuits are made by baking a stiff batter on a waffle grill. The waffle is then cut in half into two thin layers and filled with a syrup made up of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. The result is a sticky, heavy, spicy biscuit.

Stroopwafels didn't make their way out of Gouda until around a century later. They were originally made from crumbs and scraps of batter, resulting in their 19th century name 'armenkoeken' or poor cookies. Those made at the Lanskroon bakery today are known to be the best in the city. Unlike their poor man's predecessor, they contain honey and full-cream milk, which is probably why they're known here as Konings stroopwafels, or King's stroopwafels.
5
Utrechtsestraat

5) Utrechtsestraat

The Utrechtsestraat lies between the bustling touristy Rembrandtplein at one end and the Frederiksplein at the other. It crosses the three main canals that make up the grachtengordel, or canal belt: closest to the centre is the Herengracht, or gentlemen's canal; in the middle is the Keizersgracht, or knight's canal; and furthest from the centre is the Prinsengracht, or princes' canal. The street houses a great selection of independent shops and restaurants, frequented by both locals and tourists alike.

My particular favourites for culinary finds are Studio Bazar, on the corner of the Keizersgracht, for kitchen equipment; Slagerij de Jong at number 37 for more ossenworst; Yolanda en Fred de Leeuw at number 92 for charcuterie and Mediterranean specialities; Fishes at number 98 for fresh fish; and Patisserie Kuyt at number 111 for cakes and pastries.
Image by David van der Mark under Creative Commons License.
6
Nieuwmarkt

6) Nieuwmarkt

Although ‘Nieuwmarkt’ directly translates as new market, it has existed since the early 17th century when the canals on either side of it were filled in to create the square we see now. It used to be known as St Anthony’s Market, because it was home to one of three main gates to the city, called St Anthony’s Port, built in 1488. The large building in the middle of the square, which used to mark the gate, was turned into a ‘Waag’ or weigh house when the gate became redundant. Traders were required to have their products, such as cheese, weighed here in order to promote fair trading and to pay a kind of tax on their goods. Now, the building is used as a restaurant, but maintains its old name: ‘In de Waag’.

Although the Nieuwmarkt is located right next to the Red Light District and Chinatown, it has a restful feel and is not overly touristy. There is a daily market here, and an organic market on Saturdays. In the summer months between April and October, antiques, books and other curiosities are sold at the market on Sundays. Ideally, come on a Saturday for the fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, pulses, fish, cheese and flowers.
Image by Bill Rand under Creative Commons License.
7
De Prael Beer

7) De Prael Beer

De Prael brewery is housed in a 17th century canal house, in the northern part of the Red Light District. The brewery itself, however, is pretty young – it was only founded early this century. The brewery's founders wanted to create a company that could employ people with long-term psychiatric disabilities. So they settled on a small-scale artisanal brewery making a high-quality product. It needed to fulfil both commercial and social objectives, by being a financially independent foundation that helped rehabilitate people with mental illness.

The brewery has been operational since spring 2002, and currently employs around 60 people. Because the operation uses traditional methods, the employees are involved in everything from milling the grain to labelling the bottles – all done by hand.

The brewing equipment produces 1,000 litres of beer per week. Each of the 7 beers is named after a famous Dutch singer, such as Andre Hazes or Johnny Jordaan. Having looked round the brewery itself, you can pop round the corner to Warmoesstraat number 15 to taste the beer for yourself at the proeflokaal.
Image by Bill Rand under Creative Commons License.
8
Jenever and Liqueurs

8) Jenever and Liqueurs

Jenever is a juniper-flavoured liqueur that was the basis from which gin evolved. Only made in the Netherlands, Belgium, and limited areas of France and Germany, jenever was first sold as a medicine in the 16th century, becoming more popular for its flavour in the 17th. The liqueur comprises malt wine, sugar and juniper berries. Depending on the ratio of malt wine to sugar, three different types of jenever are produced: jonge or young jenever, oude or old jenever, and korenwijn or corn wine. Young jenever, so-called because it was favoured after 1900, is the lightest in taste, containing the least malt wine and sugar. Old jenever, favoured before WW1, is much stronger. Korenwijn is similar to the 18th century-style jenever and is the strongest of all. It’s claimed that Korenwijn is the ideal drink to go with herring!

Wynand Fockink has been distilling its own jenever and other liqueurs in the heart of Amsterdam since the 17th century. The name comes from the distillery’s second owner who took it over in around 1730. It grew to be one of the largest in the Netherlands and began exporting in the early 20th century. In 1954, however, the company was bought out by Dutch jenever giant Bols following increasing competition. Fortunately, the tasting house itself continued to exist as a drinking establishment. The adjacent distillery is now a museum on the history of the drinks.

In the tasting room, you can try a range of over 60 jenevers and liqueurs, each of which you must drink in the traditional manner: stooping down to take the first sip straight from the bar.
Image by Jos, Joanna, Micaela, Finn, and Davey Purvis under Creative Commons License.

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