Eat Like a Local: What to Eat in Amsterdam

Although Amsterdam is home to both casual and gourmet restaurants of just about every type of cuisine you can think of, there are several quintessential Dutch foods you should be sure to seek out.

Cheese

No matter if it's jong (young), belegen (mature), or oud (old), the Dutch live for cheese. A young Gouda has a creamy flavor and soft consistency; as it matures it acquires a more robust flavor and a firmer, sometimes crystallized texture. Edam is very mild, with a slightly salty or nutty flavor. Other popular Dutch cheeses include Leidse Kaas, cow's milk spiced with cumin seeds, and Frisian Clove, a firm-textured cheese spiced with cloves and cumin. Head to the Noordermarkt, Albert Cuypmarkt, or one of the many cheese specialty shops dotting the city for the best variety.

Pancakes

Dutch pancakes are generally larger and thinner than what is usually found in the United States, and with both sweet and savory toppings, pannenkoeken (pancakes) are a mainstay on the menu at many Amsterdam cafés. They're so popular that they're the sole specialty at such places as the famous Pancake Bakery. It's common to enjoy the pancakes with stroop, a thick and sweet molasseslike syrup. Look for stalls around the city and in the markets that sell tasty mini pancakes (poffertjes), served with butter and powdered sugar. Kids love them (but so do adults).

Herring and Smoked Eel

If you're a sushi or fish lover, you'll probably enjoy a quick and easy lunch or snack at one of the many fish stalls, or haringhandels, found around the city. The prime treat is haring, herring that has been saltwater-cured in vats and is usually eaten sliced with a little onion and pickle, or on a sandwich called a broodje haring. Rich and moist gerookte paling (smoked freshwater eel) is another popular choice, most often eaten in sandwich form.

Appeltaart and Stroopwafel

Amsterdammers' favorite sit-down dessert is the ubiquitous appeltaart. Some appeltaarts are more like cake and some more like pie, some chock-full of apples and some heavier on the cinnamon; they're always best served warm. For on-the-go desserts, the stroopwafel is a winning choice: it generally consists of two soft waffles stuck together with a caramel-like syrup. They're best eaten warm from the griddle. You can find them all over the city, and at Noordermarkt and the Albert Cuypmarkt.

French Fries and Other Fried Foods

Freshly prepared fries in a paper cone can be purchased at food stalls around town. The most popular version is called patatje oorlong, or "war fries": french fries drenched in mayo, satesaus (peanut sauce), and raw onions.

Other fried snacks meant to be paired with beer can be found at most local brown bars and cafés. Bitterballen literally translates to "bitter balls," but they're really just daintier versions of croquettes; vlammetjes are pastry puffs filled with spicy beef and served with Thai sweet-chili sauce. You'll often find gourmet versions (such as Peking duck bitterballen) at fancier restaurants.

Ethnic Food

In addition to the Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table)—a culinary experience not be missed—Amsterdam is known for its Surinamese and Turkish food. Reasonably priced Surinamese (Indo-Chinese) food from this former Dutch colony in South America can be found at casual eateries scattered around the city. Dishes to look for include roti (flatbread), bami goreng (stir-fried noodles), or nasi goreng (fried rice), all served with lamb, chicken, beef, or vegetables. Turkish joints around town serve inexpensive and filling lamb and chicken shawarma and falafel sandwiches. Best of all, many stay open till 4 am, unlike most early-to-close Amsterdam eateries.

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