Friday, October 12, 2007


Go figure.

The Netherlands is dotted with what I call 'Haring stalls'. They're basically fish vendors on the side of just about every street corner (the equivalent of MacDs in the US). The speciality is raw herring (haring).

In May each year, these stalls go nuts with the news of "Hollandse Nieuw" - the first haul of fresh herring for the year. The very first bucket offloaded from the ocean is auctioned. This year the one bucket of smelly, ungutted, uncleaned, unpickled, swimming-in-their-own-poo herring sold for a mere 70,000 euros.

We have one just down the road from us. I gag at the smell every day on my way home. But cloggies love it - they have it for lunch. You can have it with broodje, or served with onions and pickles. But if you can ride a bike with both hands in your pockets, you pick the entire uncooked fish up by its tail and drop it down your gullet. Just like that.

Excerpt from

It has taken me some years to understand the fuss about Hollandse Nieuw, which I first learned to appreciate when an Amsterdam fish dealer refused to hand it to me after I asked for the usual side offerings of onion and pickles. He just served it to me as it was and it melted in my mouth! I enjoy any type of herring, but ever since that day I understand there is something special and unique about the taste of a fresh green herring.

So by all means, have a fresh cleaned herring if you wish, but please have it cleaned under your eyes and eat it within the hour, if not it will start tasting rancid. Also, avoid having the fish cut into little pieces (an Amsterdam habit) and refuse the onions and/or pickles that are usually offered on the side. They're offered in order to distract your attention from the taste of the fish! Do not eat it on a roll, only 25 percent of all herring is eaten that way.

The best and truly Dutch method is to take the tail between your forefinger and thumb, put your head in your neck and directly lower the fish into your mouth. Good green herring melts in your mouth, tastes soft and slightly salty. You can also wash it down it with a glass of Jenever (Dutch juniper berry gin).

As much as I love sushi, fish, seafood, shellfish... I haven't been able to bring myself to try haring.

Until today.

I did not eat it in the traditional drop-it-down-your-gullet fashion, but instead chose the more conservative approach of using a fork.

It was soft. And squishy. And slightly slimy. And tasted of raw fish. Not a totally foreign experience. Then the aftertaste hit - and no amount of swallowing could dislodge it.

It's not the worst thing I've ever eaten, and I'm sure I'll try worse things. But now I can say with certainty - I don't like haring. Thank you for offering.

ps. Regarding the expatica excerpt... sure, you can wash it down with a shot of Jenever. You'll be burping fish guts and fire for the next 9 hours. Enjoy.


Little Big Sis said...

The non-fish fan that I am, I totally agree with you...


kop said...

that is the one dutch delicacy i have not tried yet. guess what we're doing when i get there!