The horrors of Dutch food

One of the things that annoys me most about the Netherlands is the Dutch attitude with food. The Dutch seem to think that food is something that should be cheap, fast, soft to the bite (why??), unsalted, and should not assault your senses with any discernible taste.

  • Most bread in the Netherlands is extremely soft and can be squeezed into 5% of its initial volume with your thumb, if you are in a bad mood. It has no crust, no taste and transmits sadness and depression. I miss good bread so much that I nearly start crying when I get it somewhere.
  • Typical lunch  of the average Dutch person (and I don’t mean children whose parents have left them alone for a day): 1 slice of bread covered with Nutella. 2 slices of bread covered with peanut butter. A glass of milk.
  •  Lunches that are typically offered at workshops in Dutch Universities consist of:  Sandwich containing  2 slices of industrial, tasteless cheese or sandwich containing bright red slices of pressed garbage meat. Forget about a salad leave, a pickle or anything alike in the sandwich. A bowl of instant soup that makes you gag if you want to eat it twice in the same week. Milk and Sourmilk. Upon realizing that this is all that they’re going to get, foreign visitor usually get an sad, empty expression in their eyes. Questioningly they look for the faces of the Dutch people around them. Those do not find anything wrong and happily squeeze the food in their mouths without any expression of distaste or pleasure in their faces, as if they were refueling cars.
  •  “Good” Dutch restaurants are very tastefully decorated, with beautifully set out tables, heavy leather-bound menues, candles. The main course sounds good, costs 25 Euros and arrives beautifully arranged on your plate. Happily, you take the first bite. Is this possible? They forgot to salt the fish? Oh, they also forgot to salt the risotto. And apparently they also forgot to add wine or  cheese to the risotto. Incredulously, you add plenty of salt and pepper. Only that is doesn’t help. The food has negative saltiness and so little aroma that it stays bland whatever you do until the point you  have oversalted it. In the background, the waiter folds a napkin into a cruise ship.
  •  Then there are the “young” places, like a bio-organic ‘baked potato place’ with a retro-logo and understatement decor. You think here you find find some dedication to food, some passion, a well-travelled young chef. And how the heck they will mess up a baked potato? Here’s how: First, by all means, let the potato cool. Then smash the inside of the poor patato, leaving only the crust intact and mix it with *something* that annihilates the subtle taste of the baked potato to nothing (I think the something is some sort of cream substitute).  Then reheat the baked potato only partially in the microwave before serving it, so that you get *cold tasteless mashed potato* inside the shell of what was once a proud baked potato. With this, you get a completely free interpretation of what was advertised as ‘cole slaw’ on the menu, which does not contain any of the usual ingredients, but instead cucumber, and has no taste whatsoever, or alternatively tsatskiki without any garlic or, for that matter, cucumber. Come on. Even the British can do baked potato.

I am ready for another business trip to Italy.

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37 Responses to The horrors of Dutch food

  1. terry1954 says:

    i would be so skinny if i ate there often

    • zinemin says:

      I think the bad food is indeed the reason that Dutch people are almost never overweight. I should call it the Dutch diet and write a book about it. 🙂

      • KendraU says:

        I just moved to Amsterdam a month and a half ago. I have lost weight since I arrived (and I didn’t need to), but I can only stomach enough to take the edge off of my hunger before my appetite to continue forcing the food down is gone . . . It’s absolutely unbelievable. Even trying to cook at home is a daunting task. All the bouillon is unsalted, the hottest hot sauce I could find in Albert Heijn tastes like watery mildly-spiced ketchup, even the spice section is rather barren, etc., etc.

        It’s enough to make you want to cry.

      • zinemin says:

        Sorry to hear it. I know, the impossibility to cook decent food even at home is the most depressing part…mostly due to the bad vegetables. I know the part about forcing down food just to be able to keep going. I have sometimes the impression that this is all the Dutch ever do; they solely eat to regain energy in order to bike to the next event. 🙂

  2. John Birch says:

    A little unfair – I have quite liked most Dutch food I have come across. OTOH I am English, so it is very possible that my tastebuds died many years ago…

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  4. Ding says:

    Hello! Saw your comment on my blog and thought I’d say hello. Also I cannot agree more with this post. Especially point number 1 about the bread! I absolutely refuse to eat bread of any kind in this country. Although, I did find a place that imports their bread from Germany once a week, it is in de pijp. The lack food culture is so sad here since my family is Chinese and the first thing that is ever asked is, “have you eaten yet?”

    • zinemin says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I think refusing to eat bread here is a very wise move, which I unfortunately haven’t managed due to the lack of other food in our canteen…. but I am sure the bread here is really not healthy. I hope you find some good Chinese food in Amsterdam at least!

  5. Juliette says:

    I agree the food is pretty poor-but wake up world British food is way better than it was and is not in a time warp like the French rubbish -There is good and bad everywhere!

  6. There is good and bad in Holland too! In a lot of towns there are cheap restaurants with quality food, usually with a large student crowd. For at home, well it depends on who you visit, now doesn’t it? Not everyone wants to put that much time into cooking. Guess that’s everywhere in the Western world: more and more pre-cooked microwave stuff.
    Well, I saw you are interested in feminism. Guess this is a downside that in Holland usually both partners are working. People don’t feel like hours of cooking afterwards. However, if you wanna make our traditional snack from scratch, here’s a link!

  7. Michael Buttery says:

    I’m English, my partners Dutch, very Dutch and your account here is spot on. On the whole, Dutch food is just plain nasty. I’ve eaten in some expensive restaurants all over the Netherlands and its been the same tastless blagh…….
    I’ve introduced my partner and her parents to oxo and know stock cubes. I will swear my father in law must have thought his taste buds died many years ago. I’ve for sure redirected them with some tasty cuisine, I almost choked last Christmas when she threatened to make the dinner….. That was never going to happen

  8. Iam Acounterparty says:

    Ha! This made me smile. And I can totally sympathize. I was born there and did not know any better until I moved to the UK in 1991. I have since had to visit NL for work on a number of occasions. The thing that stressed me out far more than the work I was there to perform was the prospect of having to rely on the food on offer. My heartfelt apologies to the Dutch, to whom I can only say: Once you’ve lived (and therefore eaten) somewhere else, you will understand what we are talking about here.

  9. Aldo says:

    Hi! Just want to share this video. Dutch speculaas has become quite a hit in the Philippines! The Dutch should be proud.

  10. Caterina says:

    I am living in nl for 6 years now and I have never tried anything tasty in any bar or restaurant and I have been even in most expensive places. Cuisine and eating habits represent a nation so what I find here is having same taste if you take a steak or soup, plane, with few known indgirdients and chemical substances for color. The culture of pre- made food and not celebrating meals comes on the top. The small exception are the Turkish restaurants since they serve not integrated migrants. The most insane thing is that the Dutch claim to eat very healthy (sic!) For expats that indeed have seen a bit of the world.. it’s a horror indeed!

  11. Bartmann says:

    After several successive years of traveling with a friend through his specialty, the south of Europe; Spain, France, and Italy, I decided to treat him to my specialty Northern Europe.

    We spent three weeks in Belgium and my friend, a gourmet cook, loved it. He loved the beer, the chocolates, and the way you always could get a wonderfully balanced meal with a nice, interesting salad, some protein and delicious bread. He loved the choice of beer and LOVED that the glass they used for the beer was the same brand as the beer itself. He would try a different beer in every restaurant we at at. He loved the Belgian attention to their cuisine; a quiet, understated excellence which is not pretentious. Almost every restaurant was a place to discover new delicacies.

    He wanted to do a side trip to the Netherlands because he is a stoner and he noticed the difference in cuisine immediately. The beer came in any old glass, there were no chocolate shops and the bread was tasteless and spongy. The best food he could find was Indonesian. He had modeled his expeditions of food on Belgium and wanted to explore typical Dutch cuisine. He was very disappointed.

    We visited a friend who lived in Enschede where the food market offered 17 types of Gouda. I love Gouda, but Gouda with coconut or basil, please.

    On our last evening in Amsterdam, he had the munchies and decided to eat at a brightly colored fast food restaurant. He bought two sausages with a tube of cheese running through the middle (imagine a breakfast sausage with Velveeta squirted in it). Anyway I’m watching him gorge himself on the first sausage and about halfway through the second one he stops, pushes the tray away and says: “That isn’t very good.”

    Our flight was scheduled to leave the next morning and he spent the whole night vomiting. We barely made our flight.

    I knew what to expect and generally prefer to travel with my Dutch friend to other countries rather than visiting them in the Netherlands.

  12. Heyhey says:

    Hey there, I was living some months in Belgium…that is quite similar in food to the NL..and I have to agree… I mean, their national food is french fries (I was like…really??), besides of chocolate, speculous and waffles I never really enjoyed any food…being from México I was really going crazy, eating sandwiches everyday! I tried to cook, tried to find chilli sauce, and the only decent things that I found were in immigrant (pakistani i think) shops…really sad!! during lunch time I never saw anyone eating anything besides cheese or salami or nutella sandwiches, I just gave up and I ate sandwiches with tabasco sauce (that I hate), pasta (with tabasco) and waffles with nutella as breakfast…it was amazing that I never got fat haha
    At least they’re thin with their insipid food!
    It’s true that NL and BE are beautiful countries but…really, french fries?

  13. Mia says:

    I lived in Rotterdam for almost two years and after leaving the country I start all my “Dutch food stories” with the same question – “Have you ever wondered why there are no Dutch restaurants anywhere? Well, there is a reason for that…”

    I don’t know if you have ever seen a movie with Louis de Funes “The wing or the Thigh” but what was shown in that movie as a mass produced, flavorless, painted food is what I think about Dutch food…. it has no taste… no matter what you do to it.

    It honestly didn’t matter if I bought food at Albert Heijn or at the Blaak Market…if I bought ready-to-eat food or if I tried cooking at home. Everything tasted like… well… nothing. Let’s face it. There is only SO MUCH breaded, fried “something” you can eat…. don’t get me started on the fries, peanut sauce, mayo, raw onions on freakin everything, herring being eaten where it’s bought and those little fried balls (whatever the hell they are)…. how are Dutch people still around eating that crap all the time????

    BTW – I am pretty sure it’s illegal in Holland to shop outside of Albert Heijn supermarket chain….just sayin… (to this day I have a AH shopping cart coin to unchain the damn thing….)

    Pretty early on I figured out one thing – there is such a thing as AVONDAMARKET and the one by my apartment had a pretty damn good wine for a very decent price…. and if you eat your food with a bottle of the fine wine, you won’t taste it…. so that’s what I did for two years…. I drank… so I could eat…. I drank a lot! Every Saturday I would send now-my-ex-then-my-husband with our 2 year old daughter on a “mission”. It was a very very important mission. To walk the WALK OF SHAME back to the Avondmarkt with a heavy bag filled with empty wine bottles to collect the store credit for the glass bottles… exchange for another bottle of New Zealand wine…. so I could eat. Something. Anything.

    But…. the Netherlands have their secrets…. I am sure of that…. one of them are their baked goods. Shit, they are good…. when I ordered a cake for my daughter’s 2nd birthday I should have known better and ordered 5 of them…. they were so good I almost fought all the toddlers that came to Emma’s birthday party to get as much as I could… that thing was good!

    Second – that one Thai restaurant in Rotterdam in Kralingen…. called Chili Time…. amazing food. Really. Truly. They had one dish that was not insanely spicy… and I loved ordering it…. it was a true treat for me (not a Dutch treat. Just treat) to eat there…. I don’t remember now what it was that I ordered there every time I was there but it was mild and delicious….

    When my dad and brother came from Poland to assist us in moving out of the Netherlands I thought that Chili Time was the only place we should go eat as I knew that these two guys raised on amazing Polish cuisine couldn’t stand the typical Dutch food. I wasn’t worried about how spicy Thai food could be, because I knew that this one dish was mild and perfect for any Polish pallet..
    Little that I know the menu changed that week at Chili Time…. the change was ever so slight and not noticeable… dishes that were mild were turned into the EXXXXXXTRA SUPER WE WILL BLOW YOUR FUCKING MIND HOT FROM HELL dishes….. My dear father and brother trusted me enough to allow me to order for them…. when the food arrived I didn’t think anything of it as I had a cold from hell and didn’t feel my throat or had any taste/smell…. my poor father and brother put their Polish Pride to the test by not complaining one word and consuming the whole thing even though it could probably kill them (poor cabbage boys….)

    So… to sum it all up – the reason there are no Dutch restaurants anywhere outside of Holland is simple – the food is horrible and there is no denying that….


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  15. kjherstin says:

    Yes! Life is really expensive here so most people cut corners and serve up disappointing meals. Good bread is one of the things that I missed most once moving here. Now after 7 years I found a bakery that sells real sourdough bread and one fake sourdough, real one costs 4 euros and the fake one 3. I can’t afford to be ripped off like that! So now I learnt how to bake my own bread and eat proper bread at last.

    What worries me most are stores like Albert Heijn (supposedly a high end premium grocery store with premium high prices) that sell vacuum pack bread and cheese with fungus and are in the due date, not overdue by many months. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not fresh as they claim. There are even worse stores like Aldi. Aldi sells over-frosted frozen foods, vacuum packed cheese filled with liquid because it is not in the cooling section and margarine which are also in the same state. They put all the plastic drink bottles by the sunny windows and fruit and vegetables go bad at home 1-3 days after purchase.

    Don’t Dutch complain about the bad food quality? I thought this was a rich civilized country…I am very disappointed.

    By the way, not all Dutch eat tasteless foods, you just have to know where to eat. Most Dutch are skinny because they cycle and have a fitness cult, not because of the food. They have their meal times much like in Australia and like to eat healthy but healthy also means not adding salt. It’s a lifestyle but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it tasty without the salt and with other seasonings and herbs or even use celery to salt your food, but then it would cost more to make the food and we all know that Dutch are cheapskates!

    • zinemin says:

      Exactly. I think the Dutch food is actually quite unhealthy, not only bland. Making your own bread is a very wise choice. In this way there are also no unnecessary chemicals and sugar included. Or you do it like me and move back to a country with good vegetables and good bread. 🙂

  16. This is so extremely accurate.

  17. Daan Ligtvoet says:

    About the Salt, see in holland we think/belief that salt can be to much. As in that to much salt leads to high blood pressure and heart problems. And we are even removing amounts of salt out of bread.

    Yes holland is becoming less salt. That is a reality and .. well you gotta get used to it. But once you are it isn’t bad. Salt you see is an aquired taste, you get used to it and you require more and more from it to have the same effect. Having less salt on the food, hell some places don’t salt their fries but give you a salt pack, means that yes.. it tastes less salt.

    Once you are used to the lower salt levels all is fine though.

    Now yes the usual dutch meal is quite simple. We like simple things in life. We are folk of “don’t do silly just do normal” And our foods are basic but functional.

    Might I ask have you tried liquorice? See sure we have allot of low salt and low interest foods. And I agree that some bread just sucks… ergh.. I always go for grainy brown bread myself. But liquorice is our little thing, and its salty. You can get salted liquorice and it is delicious. If you can handle the taste.

    Again you get used to the foods that you grow up with. If you grow up in holland then the saltier, fatter foods in america for instance… might make you rethink about eating that day. Indeed it can swing both ways! I have been in england and I am/was not a big bread eating for breakfast. My stomache needs time to wake up! So in holland we got allot of milk based morning replacements. In the UK though… oh my .. few choice and what choice there was was SUPERSWEETENED. At least to my tastebuds.

    And I will end this with a delightful suggestion that makes so many people shiver. Raw Herring. Mmmm *licks lips*

    • Anonymous says:

      Mmmm herring. Yum! I still miss real authentic bread though :p

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think salt is going to make much of a health difference when you are eating deep fried pigeon shit out of a vending machine. Food is important on so many levels and it is very sad for any culture to just brush it off like it is a means to an end. It isn’t just for survival, it is a tool for creativity, comfort, energy, inspiration and many more things. “Don’t do silly just do normal’ is an ironic statement to live is literally silly..besides what is normal?

  18. Victoria says:

    I’ve never read anything so accurate! Great post! Dutch food is heinous.

  19. Victoria says:

    Every time I read “In the background, the waiter folds a napkin into a cruise ship” I can’t help laughing!! Love your writing 🙂

  20. Alessandro says:

    There you go. You can thank me later.

  21. I HATE DUTCH FOOD !!! or whatever they consider as it… because its a ewwwwy something what don’t deserves to be called food at all

  22. ..and whats up with their pork? It smells soooo god damn awful, makes me wanna vomit !!! And I love pork meat otherwise… 1st time I bought it and started preparing….yuckkkk, that special smell… kicked me off my feet, but ok, thought, maybe I just grabbed wrong package of it. Bought again… and again ewwww, as soon you try to prepare it, cook or bake or grill, whatever – smells HORRID. But oh well, I bought it again…Tried with all kind of seasonings and spices – nothing helps… Its just unbearable, I don’t get it, is that some special breed they do here or food they give them… its just OMFG horrible. Like, you know sometimes, you get across old reproductive male-boar meat? Disgusting to hell !!! and all Dutch pork is like that… saussages, fresh meat, half-prepared meat… yuckkk !!!

  23. marcus says:

    The funny thing is that no matter who you talk to, people from France, Italy, Spain, Turkey , Greece or Germany, most people (expats) agree that Dutch food sucks, only the Dutch themselves seem to disagree. I also lived in France for a while before I moved to the Netherlands, and people there told me that Dutch people even bring their own bread “bolletjes” and “toast” when on holidays, which is horrible in my view compared to the local baguettes for instance. I am an expat and live in the Netherlands for almost 20 years now. So I can say I have some experience with the Dutch cuisine. First of all, i think if you cook your own food there are plenty of places where you can buy high quality ingredients for a very reasonable price. The markets here on Wednesdays and Saturdays are great!! However, the restaurants and snack bars are horrible for the most part. If you know your way around you certainly are able to find excellent restaurants here and there (Usually not Dutch though, but rather Chinese, Thai, Turkish, Moroccan or Indonesian restaurants), however, the chances are very high that you will be very disappointed. The prices are very high, the freshness, tastiness and the skill of the cookery are very low. There is basically one type of typical Dutch snack bar (which sells the croquettes, burgers and fries), but those are on almost every corner and all sell the exact same prefabricated fried “dodo”. It seems as if the Dutch love that stuff so much that even Italian, Chinese and other snack bar owners are forced to sell that shit. Dutch people seem to be very proud of their “poffertjes” (like pancakes only different in shape), which is like a national delicatesse and they also have pancake houses in almost every city, which are even advertised in touristic brochures. I have been to a couple of them with my kids, however, all of them I went where using a ready prefabricated pancake mix (sold in buckets), rather than making them fresh. I think that says it all, is there a easier dough to make than a pancake dough? Even most of my neighbors, which have kids are using that crap. It is terrible. In my view, there is really not much passion for cooking in this country. It might have been lost somehow, or it was never there, I do not know.

  24. Ridwan says:

    I livr in The Netherlands and totally agree with the author. Lunch is indeed for refueling, considered a waste of time. A few slices of tasteless bread, usually with milk is also… tasteless. Dinner is often only one course, and very early (6pm, or even 5.30pm) but that is another story. It is a big shame for one of the most wealthiest countries in the world. Since half a year I started to eat better lunches (for example soup with a salad) and French bread with French cheese. I wish I had made this choice earlier, but better to be late than never 🙂

  25. Jacob van de Kassteele says:

    Well, I have been travelling around the world as a seaman for nay 30 years, visiting all kinds of countries and local restaurants and local street food (like Clifford Pier in S’pore). But I grew up on Mom’s food, somewhere in Zeeland, far away from cities. Always fresh, used to go to the seadike to gather fresh clams on low tide, a bucket of 10 kg in 20 minutes, fried wth crispy onions they are delicious, but never found them outside Holland; in Norway on a trawler ate fresh cod (abt 50 kgs) and it was delicious, as also fresh salmon, sole, palice etc, but in Italy cooks are convinced that fish and seafood in general should taste of lemon, not of the sea; on the bread I must say that Italy has a much better bread quality than NL, but I cannot find the black rye bread whìch goes with our Dutch winter peasoup. Check up on the original recipe and you will be surprised. We got our milk straight from the farmer, who sold it as it came from the cow and never tasted any milk so good elsewhere in the world. In New Zealand ate the best lamb and mutton, in Adelaide drank a Shiraz wine which in my experience was the best I ever tasted. Best shrimps in the world in Sumatra, Indonesia, size of chicken sticks, in a place close to Bandjermasin, best salty crisps in Dar es Salam in Tanzania, which I discovered later to be fried locusts, in Norway again whale beef, which has a taste which is between pork and veal and is probably the most proteinrich food existing(btw in Canada is used as dogfood, and in Seattle discovered that hotsmoked salmon is also used as food for dogs). But I never went to the trendy eating places, but rather went a bit out of my way. And I suspect that most disappointed expats on this site never tried to leave the city and thy out the country. I recommend this; it worked even in France where in Alsace I had better food than in Paris restaurants, like Maxim’s, where you end up going away just as hungry as you come in after paying a lot of money.

  26. philerupper says:

    Completely agree. Dutch food is perhaps one of the worst I’ve had in Europe. German food is also just as bad. No taste, no seasoning, no variety. I couldn’t wait to leave.

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