Food & Drink - Restaurants Dutch

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Eating - and by extension, cooking - is not an art in The Netherlands. Unlike for instance the French, the Dutch adopt a business-like attitude to food: it's there because you need it for survival, and if it tastes good, so much the better. This also means that there are very few restaurants specializing in Dutch cuisine: why spend a lot of money on a dish that your wife makes just as well? If you can't get invited to a Dutch family meal, you could try the restaurant at a larger station. In winter, look for erwtensoep (pea soup).
The standard Dutch bread comes in 800-grammes loaves, either white, brown or whole-wheat. It's usually sold sliced, or the baker will slice it for you. There is also a large variety of other types of bread, and of rolls, but on a per kilogramme basis they are far more expensive.
What to put on your bread
The classic is of course cheese. About half of the cheese sold is of the Gouda type, 25% of the Edam type, and 25% others. Dutch cheese come in several age types: young, lightly aged, aged, and old. The price goes up with the age, as does the flavour.
Meat preserves and sausages are also popular. Try - for a budget sandwich - boterhamworst.
Compared with the French, the Dutch are hearty breakfasters. However, hot stuff is not generally part of it, apart from the occasional boiled egg. (Your waitress may ask you to specify how may minutes your egg should be boiled.) The average Dutchman will breakfast on two slices of bread, with cheese or sausage, or jam, and a cup or two of tea. For a larger breakfast, add coffee and beschuiten: circular slices of twice-baked bread. A full cooked breakfast is only served in hotels.
Most tourist guides mention raw herrings. Actually, they are not as popular as they used to be, having become rather expensive. See under Fish
The most popular haunt for snacks is the snack bar, also known as cafeteria. Chips (french fries) are the staple food, with or without mayonnaise, ketchup or peanut sauce. Try the patatje special, with chopped onions, mayonnaise and ketchup, or the patatje oorlog (literally: war chips) with mayonnaise and peanut sauce. Other deep-fried stuff: kroketten (croquettes) and fricandellen (finely minced meat in a cylindrical shape). Also, most snack bars will serve bread rolls, with cheese or meat. Try the broodje halfom, with boiled liver and pickled meat. For the full range of belegde broodjes, try a broodjeszaak. A very traditional treat are the smoked sausages from the Hema department stores: you pay NLG 2.25 for half a sausage, the fat of which will usually end up all over your coat. Also, the saucijzenbroodje deserves to be mentioned: minced meat rolled in pastry dough, served hot.
In this chapter, the automatiek deserves special mention: the snacks are kept in small lockers: insert the required coins and open the door. This has given birth to the phrase 'eating out of the wall'.
A word of warning: I think this sort of food is OK every now an then, but I wouldn't eat there for a long period of time: I know of one lady who did this for three months and lost most of her hair.
Probably the Dutch equivalent to the British ploughman's lunch: take two slices of bread, cover them with boiled ham, and add two fried eggs on top. (This is the standard uitsmijter, there is also a mammoth version containing four slices of bread, lots of ham and four eggs.)
Literally: ground meat. But there is a lot more to it: the traditional meat dish on Wednesday, when all that was left over from slaughtering a pig would be ground up and eaten, this is threatened by EU legislation. The point is: nobody knows what goes in it (anything not sold separately, apart from penises and testicles, which are exported by the planeful to Asia), but nobody really wants to know.
Other meat dishes
The Dutch eat less meat then most Western people do: a normal dose would be 75 to 100 grammes a person. This means that there are no spectacular meat dishes. The only one is rollade: a piece of meat is spiced and rolled up end tied into a cylinder. (Instead of tying it up it is nowadays it is usually stuffed into a kind of stocking.) It is then baked in butter for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on its size.
This is actually where the Dutch excel. There is a large variety of vegetables, both homegrown and foreign.
I think this would count as a Dutch speciality. Only available in the late spring. Cook them in water with a knob of butter, and serve them with a thin blonde roux with an egg yolk beaten into it, and a glass or two of dry white wine (for instance Riesling).
Incidentally, there is an annual row over the asparagus harvest. Digging them out can only be done by hand as the spears are rather delicate, so there is a sudden demand for temporary labour. In a country with such a high level of unemployment, this should present no difficulty, but the pay is rather low. So asparagus farmers have to contract workers from as far as Poland.
Herbs and spices
Herbs play no significant part in Dutch cooking. Occasionally, you may spot a twig of parsley on cooked carrots, but that is about as much as you may find. Spices aren't used much in domestic cooking either, only in cuisine of an ethnic heritage.
For a country bordering on the sea, not much fish is eaten in the Netherlands. Most fish is deep-frozen cod, caught somewhere between Canada and Greenland, usually processed into fish fingers. As to shell-food: mussels are fairly popular; oysters are definitely a luxury.
Now, we should not forget the classical raw herring. It's not raw, but preserved in its own gastric juices (or some comparable and equally delicate process), but, indeed, not otherwise treated. You take it by the tail, swirl it across chopped onions, tilt your head backwards and bite off mouthfuls.
These are quite popular: there are numerous specialized pancake-restaurants. A Dutch pancake is a meal in itself, not a tiny snack like the French crepe. It can be up to 40 centimetres in diameter, requiring oversized plates. There is no limit to what might be put in them (bacon, sliced apples etcetera) but syrup (stroop) is always served with them. Pancakes are especially popular with children.
Erwtensoep (pea soup)
The classical winter dish, this should be so thick that a spoon will remain standing. It's traditionally accompanied by rye bread and thinly sliced bacon.
The most popular is vla. This is custard, served cold, and comes in different flavours: vanilla, chocolate, caramel, and strawberry.
What to drink with Dutch food
Generally, nothing. No wine, as the French probably would do. Perhaps a glass of water. With pancakes, usually milk.

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