Amsterdam has a rap for being a city where munchies are in high demand. This is true for obvious reasons, but the city’s culinary offerings go beyond the need to fill a craving. Inside or street-side, Amsterdam holds a variety of culinary delights. In the chill of winter, as you walk around marveling at the rings of canals, viewing hundreds of variations of houseboats on their moors and oohing and ahhing as twinkling lights appear in the evening, the food and drink desires that come to mind have less to do with taste and more with temperature. Warm. Hot. Steaming. Amsterdam is up to the challenge. Here’s a list of ten foods for foodies to try in Amsterdam in the winter. While not entirely of the hot and steamy variety, all are not to be missed!
Warm yourself from the inside out with a steaming cup of glühwein, the Dutch version of mulled wine. Gluhwein is a winter favorite for tourists and locals alike, especially around the holidays when it can be found at stalls in winter markets.
Literally translated into English as “syrup waffles,” you may be familiar with the grocery story equivalent of this Dutch delicacy — two flat waffle-shaped wafer cookies sandwiching thick syrup, sold at room temperature and wrapped in plastic. I don’t mean to demean the more common version of these treats, but once you taste one made hot and fresh, it’s hard to go back. Go to the stall at the Albert Cuyp Market and try a pair of buttery, semi-crisp waffle wafers sandwiching an oozing syrup of caramel, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Then you will be a fresh stroopwafel convert, too.
3. Apple Kuchen
Apple kuchen is a perennial selection on any frequent Amsterdam visitor’s list of favorites. Available year round in bakeries and cafes city-wide, two versions of the apple cake are particularly well known. Some argue that the city’s best can be found at cozy cafe Villa Zeezicht . On warm days, you can sit outside and pair your cake with people watching. Others argue for the apple kuchen made by Bakkerswinkel, which conveniently has six cheerfully decorated locations across the city. Which ever take on the cake you prefer, in the colder months the dessert is a great excuse to duck into somewhere warm, give your feet a rest, and eat something tasty. Just don’t forget to top it with whipped cream.
4. Speculaas Pasta / Speculoos Spread
While not specifically wintery or native to the Netherlands, speculaas pasta is too good not to be on this list. Based on speculaas, the spiced cookies popular in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany around the December holidays, speculaas pasta is a spread made from those cookies that pairs the consistency of peanut butter with the taste of cinnamon Teddy Grahams. It can be purchased in Dutch supermarkets and recently (joyously) at Trader Joe’s under the name “Speculoos Cookie Butter.”
Poffertjes add a dash of cuteness to winter street food in Amsterdam and can also be found at the Albert Cuyp Market. Essentially mini pancakes. they are cooked per order in special pans and served by the half dozen. After they are cooked to the right shade of golden, they are slathered with butter, sprinkled with powdered sugar and handed over on a cardboard tray with a small disposable fork. Hold onto that tray. You’ll want at least a dozen of the tasty, bite-sized, doughy morsels.
Hot, crispy and salty, the Dutch version of french fries (also called patat, friet, or sometimes Flemish Fries), frites are a great snack accompaniment for an Amsterdam winter stroll. Those who want the absolute best seek out Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx. Easily identified by its line – itself a testament of just how good and popular their frites are — frites from this stall come in two cone sizes and, for a little bit more, your choice of sauce. Try them Dutch way with mayonnaise, be adventurous with curry ketchup, default to tried and true ketchup or enjoy them plain. Either way, they are what one Yelp reviewer calls “some righteous frites.”
Amsterdam is the home city of Maoz Vegetarian and the namesake of countless other falafel servers the world over, so you know the falafel offerings in the city have to be good. There are restaurants and stalls throughout the city, some with extensive condiment bars with different types of sauces, extra humus and tahini, chickpeas, tomatoes and other toppings. Try Sonny Falafel, one of the Maoz locations or buy one from a street vendor. There’s usually one outside the Dappermark’t. No matter where you go, you can’t go wrong.
Historically, haring (herring) was a practical necessity for the Dutch. It was rich in fat and nutrients, and when salted, could be eaten throughout the winter. Now it is a considered a Dutch delicacy and Holland’s national snack, one that many tourists and immigrants avoid. It’s not surprising considering the modern method of consumption involves combining bite-sized pieces of the frozen, salted fish with finely diced raw onions and pickles. Not that the traditional method of eating haring is any more appealing to the uninitiated — you hold a headless fish by its tail, tilt your head back, and lower the fish into your mouth. The Dutch love it and tout its healthy, cholesterol-lowering attributes. Adventurous visitors can find haring stalls on bridges and alongside canals across Amsterdam.
Amsterdam offers a large selection of the cold weather favorite. The place to go for western soups is Soup en Zo, which uses only fresh, mostly organic ingredients. The city also has an extensive number of Asian soup options. In addition to the Chinese varieties, Amsterdam’s Chinatown has a handful of Malaysian restaurants that serve laksa, a noodle soup in curry broth. The cha han with miso soup at Wagamama is also highly regarded.
This last one is a biggie. A feast, in fact. Rijsttafel, literally “rice table,” is an elaborate meal dating from when Indonesia was a Dutch colony and colonial hosts wanted to impress their guests with an abundance of food with a variety of exotic tastes. It consists of many side dishes accompanied by several different preparations of rice. After a long day of sightseeing in the cold, nothing beats an abundance of warm, tasty food served in little bowls paired with heaps of steaming rice. Just remember to make a reservation. Rijsttafel restaurants are popular, and the waiters won’t hesitate to send you back into the cold if there are no tables available.