A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Each country has its own palate. Of course, the Netherlands has some peculiarities too. One of them and also among my favourites is Herring (Haring), with its special eating method as dipping.
What is Haring?
Some internationals like me may meet with it after arriving here. Although I am crazy about all kind of seafood, I had not had the opportunity to taste Haring before I came to the Netherlands. Haring is a kind of fish which is frequently found in cold waters, like the North Sea. It is full of nutritious oils and protein. It would not be a fault to say that it is extremely healthy. There is even a saying in Dutch as “Haring in het land, dokter aan de kant!” Meaning “Herring in the land, doctor out of the way!”.
Is it really eaten raw?
Simply no. It is indeed a kind of salted fish. After having been caught, the harings are treated in a special way with salt and left to rest for a while in barrels until they reach a certain maturity and delight. In this process, they keep all their valuable omegas and other healthy oils inside. That is also what we need in overwhelming school periods when we engage in a deep mental activity.
Is Haring delicious?
I reckon this is an ongoing debate between many internationals and locals. As you know, colours and delights are subjects out of the discussion. They are entirely based on personal preferences. However, if it was not delicious, it would not be a sort of significant member of Dutch food array. For me? It is the one of full of delight! It has a soft texture and mild taste. While eating a well-prepared haring, you shouldn’t feel any taste of raw fish. It is generally served with chopped onions into little pieces and especially in Amsterdam area, with pickles.
Where can I get one?
My regular spot to eat Haring is Leiden Street Market which is set up on both Wednesdays and Saturdays. You may find delicious ones there. Particularly on Saturdays, you have to wait on the queue for a while to get yours.
Even though you can always find one, New Haring season usually kicks the start around early June. By the way, if you visit Volendam, which is a lovely town famous for its fish and close to Amsterdam, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity and take a shot of Haring there! I personally tried it there for the first time and since then I am addicted to it.
How am I supposed to eat it?
Actually you have two options to eat it, in a bread roll or plain. If you are hesitant of its taste you may first taste it with bread. However, I recommend you to go for the plain one so that you can get the genuine taste.
Once you decided to eat it plain, you have also two options here. 1) Grab the tail, heads up, dip it into your mouth or 2) get it sliced and eat by toothpicks. The sliced version is more common in the Amsterdam area. But in the Leiden area, people usually grab the tail! (Source: fishermen reviews around Leiden)
As I live in Leiden, my preference has always been “do like locals”. Although sometimes people may seem like hungry pelicans from outside, this is the fun part of eating a haring! If you haven’t tried yet, why don’t you try to grab the tail this week?
As a last remark, if you don’t like traditional Haring, it is also sold as smoked in supermarkets which is also delicious. Feel free to share your thoughts and additional remarks in the comments! Cheers!