Stuff Your Face: Amsterdam
When you think of the Netherlands, “culinary expertise” is not a phrase that comes to mind. But when you visit the canal capital of Amsterdam, you are still going to have to eat. Luckily, Amsterdam is full of unique food choices. Keep these cheap options in mind and you will still have enough money for when the munchies kick in (if you know what I mean).
A local culinary favorite in Amsterdam is cheese. The Dutch-take on cheese is both interesting to witness and delicious to eat. Check out local markets to sample pieces cut from large, wax wheels infiltrated with spices such as cumin and caraway. Pick up thick slices of Gouda or Edam from the Albert Cuyp market as you head over to Vondelpark to enjoy your impromptu picnic. Pickled fish like herring, sardine and eel are also cheap favorites that make nice sandwiches, if you like soused fish.
One Dutch creation that has yet to infiltrate other food markets is the “kroket” - pockets of deep fried food served to you as is. Many cafes and restaurants offer this fare, but the coolest place to get them is from a FEBO machine. FEBO makes krokets of pork, chicken, cheese and even hamburger. Many will tell you to avoid these bright yellow vending machines, found all over the city, as the quality of the food is not five-star in the least. But FEBO it is inexpensive, convenient and surprisingly satisfying. Toss in less than 2 Euro and “verrassing!” You’ve got a pocket-sized version of Dutch fast-food.
The Netherlands have a very open immigration policy, and therefore you are apt to bike through the unique ethnic neighborhoods of Amsterdam. Arab, Indonesian and Surinamese cuisine is interesting and worth trying, if pickled-herring-on-a-bun gets old. These restaurants are often less expensive than Western establishments and offer generous portion sizes, as well as take-out service. Nothing like chopsticks sticking out of the basket of your rented bicycle to indicate a hungry traveler!
For something sweet, eat Dutch waffles or pancakes. Belgian waffles dipped in various chocolates, or topped with ice cream can be bought at little stands dotted around the city and in parks. A thinner, more traditional Dutch favorite is the “stroopwafle”, which is filled with honey, syrup or caramel. These are large and filling, making for a good late night snack. Try to avoid the Red Light District in the evening if you are hungry. The quality of food there is not good and even cafes will overcharge you for the simplest of dishes. Be wary of the baked goods served in coffeehouses - they are made with the same cannabis and hashish products sold to eager smokers and will get you very high. Instead, find a “poffertjes” stand, selling tiny pancakes with powdered sugar and cinnamon. They are a traditional Dutch dessert and are especially good around the holidays.
After all of these cheap eats, you will even have enough money for a fresh Heineken. Drink one as you contemplate why Vincent van Gogh cut off his left ear, and be thankful yours is still intact.