Patatje speciaal
America has its food trucks, and Holland has its patatkramen. An oasis of all things fried in a quiet neighborhood, or a small shack on the daily market, the patatkraam is usually the neighborhood gathering place around dinner time, and a favorite place to grab a quick snack or a greasy lunch.

Kids will come in and order "french fries for five euros" and will be handed a large family size paper bag filled to the rim with golden fried potatoes to take home and have it served as the starch for dinner. The glass case is filled with raw or precooked meat items such as hotdogs, frikandellen, kroketten, bitterballen, bereklauwen, all piled up in neat stacks from which to choose.

And the fries do not come without choice either: whereas the shape may vary only slightly (steak fries, french fries or shoestring), the amount of sauces and condiments to douse these golden spears with is vast: apart from the traditional mayonnaise (just try it), you can also choose curry ketchup (a spiced up type of ketchup), tomato ketchup, mustard, piccalilli, peanut sauce, joppiesaus (a fairly newcomer to the market of fry sauces, it's flavored with yellow curry). ...and then there are ofcourse the combinations: patatje met ( "fries with", meaning fries with mayo), patatje oorlog ("war fries": fries with mayo, peanut sauce and chopped onion), patatje speciaal (mayo, curry ketchup and chopped onion), patatje stoofvlees (french fries with a savory stewed beef sauce).....
Patatje oorlog

Patat is the generic name for the fries, patatje means a single serving. Fries are served in either a paper cone bag, or a white plastic shallow tray. The cone will allow you to tear the paper as you eat, so your hands don't get dirty from the sauce(s) as you pick at the fries with a small wooden pronged tool. If you have fries served on a plate, it's perfectly okay to eat them using your fingers.

Fries are traditionally prepared in ossewit (beef tallow) or less commonly so, horse fat. During the seventies, the saturated fats were replaced by vegetable fat such as Diamant, and most patatkramen stepped away from the tallow. It impacted the fry fat industry positively, and a myriad of television ads appeared, praising the qualities of vegetable fat and pushing moms to serve patat at least once a week. To this day, Wednesday's dinner is usually patat with a side choice.

The secret to crispy, golden french fries is to fry the taters twice. Once to par-fry them, if you will, then let them rest, and finish it off with a second fry to crisp the outer skin and bring out the golden colors. The traditional potato to use for fries is the Bintje. In the United States, choose a white or yellow potato, preferably starchy, like a Russet, since Bintjes are practically non-existent here. Since beef tallow is hard to come by, use canola oil for frying instead.

4 large Russet potatoes
Canola oil

Peel the potatoes and slice in inch thick slices, then cut in strips. Heat the oil to 325F. Rinse the potatoes (removing some of the starch will prevent the fries browning prematurely and ending up with a bitter taste) and dry in a cotton towel. Fry in small batches until lightly golden. Remove from the oil and rest the potatoes in a colander for about 25 minutes, then heat the oil to 375F and fry again, in small batches, until the fries are golden. Toss with salt.

Serve immediately.

What's op with drop?

Oh, how we love our sweet treats in the Netherlands! Candy aisles are stocked with all kinds of colorful goodies, cookie aisles equally so, and the chocolate shelves are overrun with seasonal and regular offerings year round. Yet one of the favorite sweets, for lack of a better word, is an unassuming, rubbery black candy called drop, licorice.

Dutch licorice is a popular and traditional candy that comes in many shapes, sizes and ranging from sweet to various degrees of saltiness, the saltiest* being a small briquette-shaped licorice called DubbelZout (twice as salty). The licorice is made with an extract from the Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) plant and a generous amount of salmiak, or ammonium chloride, which provides a distinctive salty and slightly bitter taste that is also particularly popular in the Nordic countries.

Drop, in all shapes and sizes, is consumed in large quantities and it is rumored that the average Dutch person nibbles away approximately five pounds a year, sharing about 32,000 kilos (about 70 thousand pounds) between themselves. Dutch licorice is definitely an acquired taste and seldom liked by non-natives, as noted by an incident in my office not too long ago.

"What's this drop stuff?" my co-worker asked, pointing to a small bag on my desk.

"It's Dutch licorice," I said, squinting at my computer screen. "You won't like it."

"Oh, it's black licorice ! I love black licorice!". Her hand reached for the bag as I pushed it aside.

"It's not the same. Your black licorice is very different from our black licorice".

"No, it's not, it looks just the same. Why can't I try some?"


I handed over a piece of Dutch licorice. Triumphantly, she put it in her mouth and grinned at me. "See? I like it!" Not so fast, I thought, and reached for the waste basket under my desk. And not a second too late, either.

"EWWWWWWW!!!!" It never fails. About ten seconds after they try Dutch licorice, the ammonium taste will hit the buds, with a vengeance. People will pull an ugly face and start looking around desperately for a place to get rid of it. That's when I hold up the trash can, where they gratefully (albeit not gracefully) spit out the contents of their mouth.

"OHMAGAWD!! That is SOOOO gross!! How can you EAT that???" Her eyes open wide, her mouth still reeling from the palatal pummeling it just experienced, she suddenly stopped speaking and glared at me, her eyes narrowing slightly. Was this a prank? Surely, this was a prank!? I could see her thinking. It's hard for others to understand how we can love our drop so much, and I don't even try to explain it anymore. The Icelanders have their hákarl, the Chinese have their fermented or so-called stinky tofu, and the Dutch have their licorice. We all love something different!

For as much as we like our sweets, licorice is one of those oddities that makes the Dutch food culture so unique and interesting. Grocery stores, candy stores and even drugstores will have bulk-sized bins with a rich assortment of various licorices to scoop, weigh and take home. Cat shapes, coins, railroad ties, shoe laces, farm animals, buttons......drop comes in so many flavors, shapes and levels of sweet- or saltiness that there's something for everyone.Well......almost everyone.

* I distinctly remember one called Driedubbelzoute drop, although that one is harder to find.  

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Happy Birthday, Queen Beatrix!!
(Courtesy of
Hip Hip Hurray, it's the Queen's birthday! The whole country is going nuts on April 30th: huge yard sales everywhere (yard- or garage sales are not a common occurence in Holland), open air concerts, food fairs....everybody will be in a festive mood today. To show your support, either for the Royal family or just for partying in general, wear something orange. A wig, a's all good. Eat some orange cake, have an orange beer.....and enjoy Queen's Day.

Queen's Day started officially on August 31st, 1890 to celebrate the birthday of the then Queen of the Netherlands, Wilhelmina, and was a yearly festivity until 1948 when her daughter, Juliana, took over the reigns. Juliana was born on April 30th, so Queen's Day moved to early Spring. By the time Beatrix, daughter of Juliana and current Queen of the Netherlands became Head of State in 1980, it was such a tradition to have all the outside activities, that she didn't have the heart to move Queen's Day to her day of birth, January 31st. Which is just as well. The weather cannot be guaranteed to be sunny and pleasant at the end of April, but it's bound to be a heck of a lot better than on January 31st! Beatrix kept April 30th as the date for this colorful national celebration.

Traditionally, the Queen visits one or two locations in the country where she's greeted by the local authorities, given a tour and has the opportunity to show, perhaps feigned, interest in the local sights. Noblesse oblige. This year, she is visiting the two towns of Thorn and Weert in the province of Limburg. Smart move! They'll probably fete her with a nice slice of Limburg vlaai......

There is no food directly related to Queen's Day. Yes, the icing on the cakes will be orange. The tompoezen will have changed their pink icing to sunny orange, there will be orange beer, orange desserts, and many other orange food items. I may even give those orange tompoezen a go tomorrow, I'm always game for dessert.

However, there is one item that holds it own today: Koninginnesoep. A fairly late comer to the Dutch kitchen, a recipe for Queen's Soup appeared for the first time around the 1900's and has been a steady regular at celebratory events. It's a creamy, chicken-stock based soup that will please everybody in your family, and is easy and quick to make. Which is a good thing, today is after all a holiday!

6 cups of seasoned chicken stock
2 cups of whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup of peas
1/2 cup of diced carrots
2 cups of cooked chicken meat, diced
1 tablespoon of ground almonds

Warm the stock, add the vegetables and boil until they're tender. Whisk in the milk and bring back up to temperature, but don't boil anymore, the milk might curdle. Stir in the chicken and the almonds, let the soup simmer for another five minutes, then taste and adjust if needed.

Serve royally!


Holland celebrates Easter in a similar way as it does Christmas, with two days. In the case of Easter, First Easter Day is always on Sunday, Second Easter Day is on the Monday following and is often a holiday.

The gathering of family and friends around the breakfast, lunch or dinner table is key on First Easter Day. Stores are closed, children are dressed in their "Paasbest" (Easter Best) with new clothes and shoes. Eggs are colored, hidden and if lucky, all found. If it's not celebrated with an extensive brunch with rolls like paashaasjes, bread toppings, a couple of warm egg dishes and large amounts of coffee, the family will get together for a late lunch or early dinner. Lamb is a traditional dish served for Easter.

Friends and family will also spend time enjoying each other's company over a cup or two of coffee or tea, and with that ofcourse comes something sweet: a Paastaart, or Easter cake. Decorated with fluffy whipped cream, a light biscuit batter and an adult amount of advocaat, this Easter cake will put a smile on your face.

4 eggs
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (100 grams) flour
1/4 cup (35 grams) corn starch
1.5 cups (375 grams) heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons (30 grams) powdered sugar
yellow food coloring
chocolate easter eggs
1/2 cup (100 grams) chocolate hail
1 cup (235 ml) advocaat

Beat the four eggs with the sugar until foamy. The batter should drip off the whisk in a broad, thick ribbon. Preheat the oven to 320F/160C. Butter and flour an 8' (20 cm) spring form. Sift the flour and the cornstarch together and then carefully fold into the batter: do this carefully as you don't want to loose all the air.

Place the form into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Do not open the door of the oven the first twenty minutes as the cake will deflate.

In the meantime, beat the whipped cream with the powdered sugar. Add three or four drops of yellow food coloring while you are beating, if you want it to be yellow, but plain white will also do just fine. Remove the cake from the oven, let it cool and remove it from the form. Split the cake in half lengthwise and spread 1/2 the amount of advocaat on the bottom half. Replace the upper part. Spread the whipped cream on the side of the cake and generously on the top.

Use the chocolate sprinkles to decorate the sides of the cake. Pipe twirlie bits with the rest of the whipped cream on top and strategically place the chocolate Easter eggs on top. Pour the rest of the advocaat in the middle of the cake, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and serve.

This cake contains alcohol and should be served to adults only! Vrolijk Pasen!!


"Aspergesoep is afvalsoep" I read somewhere on the internet, and I'd have to agree: asparagus soup is made with all the waste from an asparagus dinner. But what a soup! The sweet earthy flavor of the asparagus and the soft, silky mouthfeel is comforting but not heavy.

After you prepare asparagus for dinner, boil the skins and the end pieces in the remaining asparagus water, cover and simmer for a good thirty minutes, then put the liquid through a sieve. You should have about four to five cups of vegetable broth. Add half a bouillon cube of chicken stock to the broth.

Save four or five asparagus from dinner, and cut them into three or four pieces. Keep the heads and add the rest to the soup. Purée into a homogenous whole. Now melt two tablespoons of butter in a pan, add two heaping tablespoons of flour, stir until you have a paste and add in a ladle full of hot soup. Keep stirring and add one or two more ladles of soup...then pour everything into the big pot, stir until it all comes together and simmer it for another five minutes.

Cut up the remaining ham of your dinner in small dice, and chop some parsley. Taste the soup and adjust it with salt if needed, then stir in 1/4 cup of cream or whole milk. Divide the asparagus points over four bowls, ladle the hot soup on top, sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!