Gallery: Snapshots from Amsterdam: The Best Street Food

  • Vlaamse Frites

    Yes, they do eat a ton of fries in Amsterdam (though they refer to them as "Flemish Fries"), and they do, in fact, drown them in mayo (or more often than not, curry sauce).

    As the quintessential street food of Amsterdam, there's a frites shop located next to pretty much every coffeeshop in town. And if the one I tried is any indication of standard quality, they are awesome. The golden potatoes are fried once then held warm above the fryers until you order them, whereupon they get fried a second time until crisp.

    These are different from French or American-style fries made with starchy, fluffy, Russet potatoes. Instead, they have a creamy, ever-so-slightly waxy interior with a sweeter flavor.

    Most places offer at least a dozen sauces beyond the normal ketchup, mustard, mayo, and curry, such as this pickled cucumber and onion relish.



    Similar to a Spanish croqueta, the breaded, crispy, deep-fried balls are filled with a roux-thickened beef-based filling. Beef gets cooked down with vegetables and butter before being bound in a thickened beef broth sometimes flavored with curry or nutmeg. The mixture is then chilled, rolled into balls, breaded, and deep-fried. The most common accompaniment is strong dijon mustard.

    Döner Kebab

    It's one of the most popular street foods in the world, and with good reason: there are few things that are more satisfying than crisp, fatty, juicy grilled meat with creamy garlicky mayonnaise and a chopped vegetable salad of tomatoes, lots of onion, cucumber, and lettuce shoved into warm pita at two in the morning on your way back to the hotel from the bars.

    In fact, it works almost equally as well as a pick-me-up the morning afterwards. Very similar to the gyro sandwiches in the States, it's made from either a giant cylindrical forcemeat cooked by rotating in from of an open flame, or by stacking thin slices of meat on a vertical skewer. The meat gets shaved off of the spit as it crisps up.

    While lamb and beef are most common in the Netherlands, it's not rare to see chicken, turkey, or pork versions as well.


    The Dutch are famous for their Gouda, and most of what you get in this country is young, creamy, mild gouda aged for fewer than six months. It's not always nice when things get dry and crusty with old age, but in the case of Gouda, it's awesome.

    Goudas that have been aged for several years (labeled Oud or Overjarig) have the dry, crumbly texture of a really good aged cheddar, with the same sort of crunchy crystals of glutamic acid that you find in old Parmigiano. Intensely nutty and creamy with a powerful savory body, aged gouda's one of my favorite cheese in the world, and luckily, widely available at pretty much every bar and café in Amsterdam. Get some.

    Pickled Herring

    I can deal with a few small pieces of pickled herring in cream, dill, or mustard sauce, but that's about my limit. Herring sandwiches with pickled cucumbers and chopped onions have their devout followers (like my grandfather), but I couldn't stomach more than a single bite of the slimy, stinky stuff. I suspect that Dutch babies receive pickled herring vaccinations within six months of birth followed up occasionally by booster shots and homeopathic doses of herring sandwich in order to protect themselves on the off-chance that worldwide nuclear holocaust leaves the entire country stranded with nothing to eat but a festering pile of rotting fish.

    Who digs this stuff? Could you explain it to me, please?

    Apparently, she likes it

    I really don't know what to make of this poster.

    Hot Dogs

    There's nearly as high a concentration of hot dog stands in Amsterdam as there is in New York, and man, are they good. The dogs themselves are a very mild pork sausage stuffed into natural casings. They've got more bite to their skin than the average NYC dog, though less of a snap in their body. It's the toppings that really get me. Mustard, mayo, ketchup, and curry sauce are all options, as are sauerkraut, chopped pickles, and cheese. But the best thing is the fried onions. Super crisp bits of battered and fried onion that add a sweet oniony crunch to every bite.

    Oysters at Nam Kee

    So it's not exactly standard Amsterdam snack fare, and you've got to sit down in a restaurant to order it, but the gigantic steamed oysters in black bean sauce at Nam Kee restaurant in Amsterdam's surprisingly sizable and well-stocked Chinatown are pretty killer. So killer that a Dutch movie was even named after them. The substantial mollusks are served a la carte for a couple of euros apiece, and are steamed open then covered in a pungent fermented black bean sauce with a ton of scallions. Sweet, briny, and delicious.


    I haven't seen an automat in decades, but there's a chain that seems to be alive and kicking in Amsterdam serving everything from fried chicken and bitterballen to double cheeseburgers and sandwiches.


    Yep, they've got it too, and in a couple of varieties. Restaurants serve thin, cracker-like pizzas of the style served in Roman restaurants, while by-the-slice snack bars offer what they call "New York" pizza, though the only resemblance these thick pies have to New York pizza is their serving method.

    Beside standard cheese and pepperoni versions, keep an eye out for shoarma (aka döner kebab) and tandoori pies.