As you might expect of the capital and world city of one of the world’s most multicultural countries, food in Amsterdam is a mix-up of influences from around the world. Heavy immigration from the Middle East has brought spicy Arabic flavours into the city’s culinary lexicon, as has a long history of abutting other old-world European cultures. Germanic and Greek influences are clear, and the streets are lined with ethnic foods of all types. And yet, there is a particularly Dutch tradition in food, one that’s in full effect in the heart of Amsterdam.
For one, Amsterdam is the place to go for the absolute best in Dutch cheese. The most famous cheese from the Netherlands is gouda, a smooth and rich cheese that comes in a variety of ages, from one month to over a year. Aging generally sharpens the taste of a cheese, and longer doesn’t always mean better; many people prefer the more mellow experience of a mid-aged cheese. Goat cheese is also a speciality of the Dutch, and of Amsterdam cheese shops, and this tends to be the most local of the Dutch cheeses, as it can’t stand as much aging as harder cheese. It’s said that there are as many types of goat cheese as there are goats, and if that’s the case then the farmland surrounding Amsterdam could occupy a culinary traveller for quite some time.
Of course, cheese is only the second most famous Dutch food product. Number one is, of course, sausage. A good, dry Dutch sausage can’t be beat, and Amsterdam lets you test that claim extensively. Ossenwurst is an ox sausage that represents probably the original Dutch sausage, with its distinctive blend of low-fat meat with a curing mix of herbs and spices. Worst Wijncafe, an eatery specializing in sausage and wine pairings, is a local treasure that’s becoming increasingly popular with visitors. Be sure to check it out soon, before it gets overrun.
Other traditional Dutch dishes run the gamut from steak and chips (be sure to check out the traditional stylings of Loetje), to pea soup with chicken livers (somehow, Haesje Claes has managed to make this into a popular taste experience). There tend to be restaurants serving “old fashioned” Dutch cuisine, which is code for simpler dishes in larger portions for lower prices. Refined Dutch cuisine is available throughout the city, and residents tend to switch back and forth without bias.
On the modern front, there’s the Rolling Kitchens event, which collects Amsterdam’s many and wonderful food trucks in one great park event. Smaller portions and price specials let visitors sample a wide array of the foods on offer. If possible, try to plan some time in Amsterdam in August, so you can take advantage of Restaurant Week, which sees a number of great local restaurants hosting 3 course meals for reduced prices. This is a chance for them to strut their stuff for the city and the world alike, and it’s a chance for you to see what a culinary treasure Amsterdam truly is.