Dutch cuisine is known for being simple, direct, and for the most part based around the national gastronomic trinity: cheese, potatoes and fish – especially herring. When it comes to the city of Amsterdam, however, the issue is a little bit more complex: the civic history has played a significant part in the city’s culinary customs. The legacy of tolerance practiced by the Calvinist merchants from the 17th Century is still alive and well in Amsterdam’s eating habits, just as is the country’s colonial heritage. Which is why some of the best restaurants in Amsterdam serve Chinese food that could rival any place in China – and the same goes for Indonesian cuisine. Spain and Portugal are both well-represented in terms of food. And of course, the tradition of Jewish cuisine continues to thrive.
But what thrives most of all is the city itself – full of vital energy and fun. And to best uncover the real, authentic spirit of Amsterdam and its people, the markets are where to start – and by bicycle, of course. Begin by exploring the Ten Katestraat Food Market, which will give you a full panorama on the food scene in Amsterdam: from Eastern spices to spicy Dutch sausages, the 130 market stalls have just about everything you could want to taste.
Ten Kate Markt
from Mon – Sat: 9am – 5pm
Holland represents a country that’s always been on the forefront of the organic food and sustainable agriculture movement, but if this brings to mind grubby packaging, think again: everything here is good for you and good looking as well – elegant and bare, or else Dutch country chic.
If you’d like to taste organic carrots and whole grain bread, take a stop by the city’s two organic farmers’ markets. The first, Noordermarkt, is in the Jordaan, and is held every Sunday from 9am to 3pm. Bags of dried legumes, brightly-painted wooden boxes, stacks of aged cheeses – there’s something for all tastes. And the same goes for the market of Haarlemmerplein: with its surrounding canals and old houses, it’s the perfect place to come and breathe in the relaxed atmosphere of the city.
Sundays 9am -3pm
Wednesdays 10am – 5pm
If it rains, something that is quite likely in Holland, you might head to the new gourmet supermarket, Marqt. Here, alongside an international delicatessen, you can indulge in the legendary “French” fries – a beloved street food in Amsterdam – which are fried right in front of you. The potatoes used are of a local variety.
It comes as no surprise then, that in Amsterdam, the worship of the French Fry can be carried out in various shrines. Begin at Vleminckx on Voetboogsteeg 33, which is much loved by locals and has been serving fries since 1889 right out on the street, where you’ll be sure to find a queue. The fries are thick and crunchy and may be enjoyed either with mayonnaise or, for the more courageous, some “oolog” sauce, which is made from raw garlic and peanut butter.
Another popular street food is the pancake (pannekoeken), which, in Holland, resembles a crêpe. Try the ones from the Pancake Bakery near the canals, in a 17th Century building with exposed brick walls that is worth a visit just by itself. Here, along with the traditional apple pancakes, you can try them with toppings from all around the world. Another address for the hungry visitor is Pancake! The name might not be so original but locals love the place. The clean, elegant design reflects the high-quality of the pancakes made with natural products (ingredients are listed along with their producers on the menu), with choices for the creative or traditional diner.
But the leading character of Dutch cuisine is, without a doubt, cheese – especially gouda. Fans and foodies should got to L’Amuse in Stadionweg, the dominion of cheese expert, Betty Koster. Along with an excellent selection of cheeses from all over the world, her shop also carries cheeses from local producers that she knows personally. Try the amazing Boeren Goudse Oplegkaas, a type of gouda. Another place worth visiting is De Kaaskamer (Runstraat 7), with a selection of organic Dutch cheeses and classics like Commissiekaas (in a dark orange shade) and the Blue de Wolvega with mould.
But you can’t leave the city without having tried the other Dutch specialty: herrings. Fresh, they’re eaten between the end of Spring and the beginning of Summer. And all over the city, you’ll find food carts and stalls where they’re prepared and served in all possible ways: fried, boiled, marinated – even raw. But smoked, they can be found all year round. Try the ones sold at the Albert Cuyp Market; and markets are also a great place to sample the wonderful, spicy local sausages. The artisanal butcher Louman onTweede Goudsbloemstraat in the Jordaan neighbourhood produces them on site, and one of their best is the osseworst.
And after all this, it’s time for dessert. Amsterdam is famous for its bakeries and pastry shops. Try the koggetjes biscuits, of medieval origins. Or else the almond biscuits, weespermopjes, and, of course, the traditional apple cake. The best places are actually near one another, so give them both a try: Holtkamp on Vijzelstraat and the nearby Kuyt in Utrechtsestraat. It’s a perfect, sweet way to end our tour.