Meals of the Mundo: Pickled Herring

On October 20, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

We’re overdue for another Meals of the Mundo. This time, we head for the Netherlands, partly because Cassie surprised me with a trip to Amsterdam for my birthday, but also because I had to try their local delicacy.

From what I could tell, the only thing the Dutch eat more of than herring is cheese. They eat crazy amounts of cheese. According to this possibly reliable chart, your typical Dutch adult eats 19.4kg of cheese a year. That’s more than 42 pounds of cheese! By comparison, Americans eat about 35 pounds of cheese. Don’t think that’s a big difference? Go to the store and order 7 pounds of smoke gouda. See how long it takes you to eat that.

pickled-herring-purchase

Nothing gets me fired up like pickled herring on my birthday.

Not surprisingly, there is no similar chart for herring consumption per capita, probably because the number of cuisines that prominently feature pickled herring has dwindled in recent years. Truth be told, they didn’t dwindle. They simply never existed in the first place. That being said, one cuisine that does feature pickled herring is Jewish cooking, so I’m not unfamiliar with herring. If Holland’s supply of pickled herring isn’t enough for you, you can always find more in Scandinavia and Germany.

WHEN IN ROME…

The easy part with pickled herring is finding it. Supermarkets, convenience stores, and street stalls all seem to have it. The hard part with pickled herring is convincing yourself you want to eat it. For me, this was absolutely no problem. First, I actually did want to eat it. And second, even if I didn’t want to eat it, I was going to for the sake of this article. Not so for Cassie. Pickled herring falls into a special category for Cassie, called “Fish I Will Not Ever Eat.” See also: gefilte fish.

pickled-herring-up-close

WHERE TO FIND PICKLED HERRING IN AMSTERDAM

We chose a herring stand called “Frens Haringhandel” near the flower market in Amsterdam, which roughly translates to “A touristy herring stand near a touristy market.” This guaranteed us that 1) I would be able to find this place again if pickled herring really struck a chord with my palette, and 2) I was getting ripped off for a small piece of fish. I have a sneaking suspicion that herring should be fairly inexpensive. Purchasing a sample-size near the most touristy market in Amsterdam ensured that my piece of fish would be both overpriced and completely generic.

MY IMPRESSIONS OF DUTCH PICKLED HERRING

Pickled herring is actually pretty good in my opinion, provided you like fish and are ok with eating it cold. Yes, it’s a bit slimy. Sure, it may look different than most food you eat. But the flavors are tasty and crisp. There’s a bit of salt, a bit of sweet, and an undertone of fish. I had my herring served with raw onions and pickles, which paired very well with the herring. I could definitely see herring going down well with beer.

pickled-herring-eating

Want to try some pickled herring? You can always go to Amsterdam, which I highly recommend. But you can also probably find some at your local supermarket, especially if that supermarket has a kosher section. Is that authentic Dutch pickled herring? No, it’s probably mass produced by Moshe in Brooklyn. Still, if you can overlook the geographic disparity, I think the flavors are fairly close. I would post a recipe here, but if you’re going to try to make your own pickled herring, I suggest buying some first to try it out. If you really like it that much afterwards, turn to the google for a quick recipe search. Amazingly, Food Network actually has a few pickled herring recipes.

-O.L.

 

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