The traditional cuisine of South Holland is straightforward and hearty. Favorite dishes include erwtensoep (pea soup) and stamppot (mashed potatoes and sauerkraut), which can be eaten with rookworst (smoked sausage). Popular bar snacks include bitterballen (fried meatballs) and patat (fries) can be bought from street vendors, dipped in mayonnaise and eaten straight from the wrapper.
The North Sea provides a plentiful supply of mackerel, cod, oysters, mussels, eel and prawns, while herring is another wildly popular street food, served ‘green’ or pickled from fish stalls with a side helping of raw chopped onion. The Dutch also have a taste for spicy smoked sausage, a slow-cooked draadjesvlees (tender beef stew) and delicious gehaktballen meatballs served with mashed potato or in a burger bun.
South Holland has a sweet tooth, adoring pannenkoek (pancakes); thick, sweet poffertjes served with extra butter and sprinkled with sugar; stroopwafels (wafers oozing with syrup); and the special winter treat oliebollen (raisin donuts eaten warm). Chocolate sprinkles are often added to all types of broodjes (sandwiches).
Dutch cheese is famous the world over and is a vital ingredient in contemporary cooking. Cheese is eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner; it flavors bread, fills sandwiches and covers burgers. The best-known Dutch cheeses are Edam and Gouda, sold in great yellow rounds wrapped in red wax and flavored with cumin or cloves. Nutty Maasdammer, smoked cheeses and goats’ cheese also go down well.
With the influx of immigrants from across the world into The Netherlands in the last 400 years, anything goes in the country’s cuisine. Chinese, Surinamese, Turkish, Indian, Jewish and Indonesian dishes are now part of the Dutch gourmet lexicon. Salt beef and pickles were introduced by the Jews; couscous and falafel by the Turks; and sauerkraut by the Germans. Indonesian rijstaffel is practically a Dutch staple dish, with scores of restaurants in The Hague offering a delicious feast of up to 20 small bowls of steamed rice, prawn crackers, nasi goreng, satay chicken, pork and beef simmered in coconut milk, sambals and noodles.