Markus Anecdotes - Food in the Netherlands
Written by Markus with photos by Markus
Having moved back to the Netherlands about 1 year after 15 years of Singapore and China, I have gained 5+ kg. The Netherlands isn’t really famous for its food. Quite the opposite. So how did I gain so much weight?
For starters, first I indulged on all the snack food that is available here. Mostly deep fried stuff, not available in Asia. Think of kroketten , bitterballen and kaassouflee. This followed by candy, pastry*, more bakes and cookies.
Choosing a cheese
Upon arrival, this was the first go-to. Not only to revive memories from before I went to Asia, but also due to not having these things available. Yes, they can be found in some shops, for example stroopwafels (https://g.co/kgs/M6nZHe), but they are a far cry from what it should be. In The Netherlands these items hit the shops only days after having been produced, instead of having to be packaged and shipped for weeks if not longer. So freshness is a key element. But some items, like the pastry, is simply not to be found. It is too labor intensive to make, has extreme short shelf life and can’t stand the heat of Asia.
The phase of eating deep fried foods and sweet things quickly ended though. There is only so much you can eat of this stuff without getting nauseous or bored. So how did I continue to gain weight?
In Asia, I did not cook at home often. And if I did, it was relatively simple food. Yes, I sometimes manage to find a good steak or foie grass, but this was expensive, often surpassing the cost of eating out.
In the Netherlands, now for many months, restaurants have been closed due to Covid. But even if they are open, you’ll find that they are relatively expensive. With two people, it is normal to spend $75 on a simple meal. And a nice meal will cost you triple that, per person.
So you now have only one choice and that is to cook at home. Of course, you start simple with pizzas, supermarket-steak, pork-chop, some fish, potato, rice and so on. The Netherlands is relatively obsessed with biological food. So, this means that in supermarkets you often simply cannot buy bulk processed fresh foods. It all is traceable to the farm where it comes from and is fresh. And the cooking process is clean, meaning not to process the food and focus on the taste and texture of the main ingredient itself. This already is a difference to the average supermarket food in Asia as most foods are imported, stored, frozen and kept on the shelf for a long time. And some of the restaurant foods are heavily processed.
Eating from a supermarket is the default here. And seen that its relatively healthy, gaining weight is not that easy. So, what caused me to continue gain weight?
The Netherlands is close to France. French food is an integral part of “better living” in the Netherlands. But cooking upscale French food using only main ingredients from supermarkets, will not get you very far. My downfall was discovering the wholesale markets that supply upscale restaurants, for example Sligro.
Imagine a shopping mall. A large space where you can wander around for an hour. But this time it is not filled with separate shops, clothes, and phone-shops. Instead, it is wall to wall filled with super fresh meats, seafood, soups, pastries, chocolates and much more. And to make matters worse, you can only buy it in bulk.
I remember my first visit to this shop very well. I just bought a large outdoor barbeque grill, so I went to search for foods for what the barbeque grill is use for. Having spent only 1 hour in this shop, I came home with:
3 x 1.5kg white marbled T-bone steaks; 2 x 0.75 kg goose livers (raw/not frozen); 10kg of huge class A prawns; 5 lobsters (alive); 2 x 10 kg of fresh mussels (alive); About 3 kg in various soft French cheeses; 15 grams of white truffle (fresh, not packaged); 0.75-liter white truffle oil and various Belgium chocolates; 3 x 1 liter of 20-year-old port wine. And on the way I passed a dairy farm, so also picked up 10 liters of full fat fresh raw milk. Total cost: only ~Sgd$200.
You can imagine, once home, I had no clue what to do with it all and very much regretted having bought all this food. Especially seeing that most of it, I could only keep for max 3 days.
So I fired up the barbeque, invited anyone who wanted to come (mostly dog owners from the neighborhood with their pet dogs, and with whom my dog plays with) and we had a great evening, stuffing our faces with a smile. It did not finish, so the next day, again with a few guests, we finished the leftovers. This was truly a meal of a level that I did not have in a decade. The food was simply put on the barbeque, with some salt. Then smoked with wood-chips and served. And where applicable, added some graded truffle.
I was in heaven. A meal like this, I did not have in quite a while. It surpassed even the better Michelin Star restaurants I’ve eaten at and spend much more. After this feast, the first “normal meal” (supermarket steak with fried potatoes) was of course disappointing. So, there I went again to the wholesale market. This time with more constraint and a bit more planning ahead. Nonetheless, I came home with: 50 x 200gr rib eye steaks (frozen), 10kg frozen American style spare ribs, more cheese, a bunch of dried Italian sausages, more aged port and some pastries. And since the season started: 10kg of white asparagus and grilled ham. Again, way too much, but at least things I could keep for a while.
And this menu is what now defines my daily dinner. Coal grilled meat, asparagus with butter and ham, a potato and as desert a selection of cheeses, complimented with port wine. The average dinner (for 2) is costing around Sgd$20. And this is what is now my Dutch meal. Perhaps I need to cancel my wholesale market membership.
A dried sausage: