Eating raw herring is a right of passage for many who visit Amsterdam. Order yours from the friendly Dutch matrons in blue and white-striped aprons at Stubbe's Haaring, a herring stand with a view on the bridge over Singel Canal, just off Haarlemerstraat. For decades, this local institution has satisfied the fish cravings of Dutchies and visitors with lightly brined herring, smoked eel and other delicacies from the North Sea.
Unless you want bragging rights, there's no need to eat your buttery snack Dutch style, grabbing it by the tail, throwing your head back and lowering the fish whole into your gaping mouth. Most locals eat it in a less flashy way: cut up into small pieces, covered with onions and sweet pickles, topped with a Dutch flag. It's served on a waxed paper plate, sans bread or cutlery. Use the flag-festooned toothpick to stab the soft, mild-flavored morsels and bring them to your mouth. For a more filling meal, order a broodje haring (herring sandwich) on a soft, white bun, filled with fish, pickles and onions. Eet smakelijk!
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Going Dutch at Amsterdam's Herring Stands
No visit to Amsterdam is complete without throwing in a taste of Hollandse Nieuwe haring, a traditional Dutch delicacy served with chopped onions and pickles. When eaten solo, an important ingredient is the little Dutch flag, used to snag the sliced bits off the waxed paper plate.
While herring should only be called Hollandse Nieuwe if caught between May and July, herring stands are open throughout the year in Amsterdam, serving fast, healthy snacks prepared with fresh or frozen fish. The fresh catch is gutted on board fishing boats, leaving the pancreas in the fish. Pancreatic enzymes help preserve the herring so the brine they're kept in needs less salt. The result is fish that's not really raw, but lightly brined, if that's any consolation for your picky palate.
There's no need to hold the fish by its tail, throw back your head and dunk it into your mouth, as Dutchies have been known to do. It's perfectly normal to sample Dutch herring on a little plate festooned with the aforementioned flag or sandwiched into a broodje haring on a fluffy bun. For €4 or less, you can fill up on lean protein that's satisfied Dutchies for centuries.