Frisian (Friesian) Food – adventures in Northern Holland

Frisian Food – adventures in Northern Holland

The Dutch have a particular fondness for sour tasting foods. I base this sweeping generalisation, not on thorough statistical research, but on my own husband’s tastes. And that of his family’s. And friends. Think sauerkraut, pickled gherkins, herring in vinegar. Extra vinegar (or balsamic at times), with everything.

Friesian cows, horses, butter and…

If The Netherlands were a football team, technically my husband would fall into the ‘reserve bench’ category. This is our little joke, anyway. Friesians, or Frisians comprise a minority (600 000 odd) population who maintain their own language. Friesland is the only province in Holland with it’s own language (Frisian has Germanic roots, is less guttural than Dutch and has a sing song quality about it. Unless my mother-in-law is speaking it. Then it’s the accelerated, high pitched, up tempo version.  And I clutch desperately onto hand signals and facial expressions just to keep up!)

Typical Dutch and Frisian Foods

(l-r clockwise)12 Uurtje- 3 open sandwiches, Snack house, Croquettes, Apple turnover

The main squad

So, what do these folk eat? Naturally, many widely enjoyed Dutch specialities are eaten in Friesland too, such as:

  •  Kroket [croquettes, a roux with veal, beef, shrimp and now modern versions with spicy meat called the ‘goulash’ and cheese varieties are available, coated in a crisp crumb, often a reddish-orange hue and deep fried],
  • gehaktbal [a pork or beef meatball, smooth in texture, and the size of a large round doughnut. I kid not!],
  • hutspot [hotpot, made up of  a mixture of mashed potato, carrots and onion often served with a brown gravy],
  • stamppot [mashed potato with either sauerkraut (zuurkool stampot), kale (boerenkool stampot],
  • snert [a thick pea soup, more a broth served with pork, bacon or smoked sausage]
  • slavink [meatballs covered in bacon, usually baked]
  • rolmops [herring, in a vinaigrette, rolled up and sold in glass jars]
  • kaas [Gouda, Edam (visited this town a while back), the Amsterdammer varieties etc]
  • pannekoeken[ pancakes. Usually thick and served with icing sugar and suiker stroop (a dark, rich molassesy golden syrup) or filled. I ate the most amazing apple and cinnamon filled pannekoek in the town of Marken, a few years ago],
  • appeltaart [apple tart, sometimes with a pastry lattice top and raisins, sometimes with a crumble topping. Popular the world over],
  • stroopwafels [thin, pliable spicy biscuit rounds sandwiched together with caramel. I used these to make fun Valentine’s ice cream sandwiches]

Over the years, I’ve gone from turning my nose up (sauerkraut that ever popular sour, pungent pickled cabbage, loved by the Germans too), to eyes wide in amazement (the rolmops take me to my days in the the anatomy dissection halls and brains soaking in formaldehyde. Sensitive readers, apologies for the lack forewarning!).

I’ve also been taken to the place known as delight – so many biscuits made with ginger, anise and other spices, such as speculaas, and my husband’s festive season favourite, pepernoten, tiny rounds of ginger biscuit made with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper.


The reserve bench

‘Bûter, brea en griene tsiis; wa’t dat net sizze kin is gjin oprjochte Fries’

(Butter, rye bread and green cheese, whoever can’t say that isn’t a genuine Frisian)

Friesland is known for it’s gorgeous Friesian horses and Friesian cows- those lazy, black and white numbers sitting in green pastures doing what cows do best. Friesian butter, as you will know, is popular the world over. It also makes sense that fresh cream is served with most desserts and cakes here. Cream is also used in or to top many soups as well.

apple turnover with slagroom (whipped cream)

Some Friesian delights we’ve enjoyed on this trip and over the years, include:

  • rookworst [a smoked sausage, widely available and often found in supermarkets.] There’s a soft, fresh variety that my brother-in-law orders from his butcher- sublime!]
  • hache [ pronounced hush-shay, I can’t verify for certain if this dish is confined to Friesland, but I haven’t seen it elsewhere and it’s one of my mother-in-law’s specialities- a slow cooked beef dish made with a ton (almost) of onions in a brown gravy. Enjoyed by my husband and his father, with a glug of vinegar. I can not begin to describe my expression, the first time I witnessed this!]
  • Fryske Dumkes – a hard, spiced cookie

Fast food

Friethuis or Chip shop

Fried foods are very popular and ‘snack bars’ often serve friet/patat (French fries) with mayonnaise or ketchup and kroketten, bitterballen(similar concept to croquettes, just small and round), and various Indo- Chinese inspired creations such as mee goreng and nasi goreng flavoured roux, covered in crumbs or pastry and deep fried.

You’d be hard pressed to find fresh sandwiches of the variety we’re accustomed to in Cape Town (no chilli pulled pork, I can tell you) and the bread option is often white or white baguette. Which is odd, because a traditional Friesian food is brea, a dense rich rye bread.  Not every snack shop sells toasted sandwiches, either.

Lettuce used is often iceberg. Now, I’m no lettuce snob; my twitter bio reads ‘Life’s too short for lettuce’ afterall. Just an observation of what’s happening on the food scene here.

I’m not terribly thrilled to admit that my nephews and niece are all extremely fond of these snack foods and would turn their noses up at sushi. A far cry from kids in similar income earning families in South Africa, whom I often see eating and even demanding sushi for dinner.


It’s also true that the Dutch are renowned for their variety of salted and flavoured liquorice or drop, as they call them. Not a particular favourite of mine, I’ve brought bags of these for friends over the years. I do like the home-made caramels and my husband likes the lemon (of course) fruit drops.

Treat the outside too

Rituals. – Holland’s pride and joy when it comes to body and beauty products. Over the years they’ve expanded the range to cover North African and Eastern influences, predominantly. They do a mean array of teas too. I’ve used the white tea with rose to make ice teas all summer long. Luxurious formulations at affordable prices. I visit the Rituals store even before we step out of Schiphol.

What’s next?

In addition to these, we’ve eaten some very, very special meals too. If you follow me on Twitter, you would have seen a glimpse. Codfish tongue, the sweetest oysters, Zwart zee lamb. But that, for another time.

Tomorrow we’re off to Barcelona. We arrive at the same time as the Barcelona F.C victory parade. I pray the traffic and road closures are kind to us. I’d much rather spend the time exploring the tapas bars. But you know that already!

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By | 2017-04-12T18:06:45+00:00 May 13th, 2011|Destination Meals, Europe, Food & Travel, Holidays, Travel, Travel in Europe|27 Comments


  1. Sam May 13, 2011 at 6:47 am - Reply

    Awesome pics, so lovely to see your holiday. Continue enjoying and eating.

  2. Linda May 13, 2011 at 8:01 am - Reply

    Such beautiful photos and a wonderful education into the world of Dutch food and lifestyle – enjoy the rest of it!

  3. Lisa@africanrelish May 13, 2011 at 8:02 am - Reply

    This is so so interesting, love the images and beautiful writing. What an adventure. And enjoy Barcelona. Keep eating + posting 🙂

  4. Hans-Erik Iken May 13, 2011 at 8:11 am - Reply

    You have left out the Hollandse Nieuwe met uitjes and our long lasting love for Indonesian food, now to be found in almost every village.

    Hachee is enjoyed all over the country, also known as stoofvlees. I think the name hachee is derived from french.

    • Ishay June 9, 2011 at 11:28 am - Reply

      Hi Hans. As mentioned, the Dutch do love Nasi goreng and Indonesian flavours, they’re even featured in the kroketten now!My husband and most of his immediate family do not like the Nieuwe at all! Guess like with all foods, depends on your taste. 😉

  5. Hennie @ Batonage May 13, 2011 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Ah, I knew that the Dutchman in me must have good taste! This all looks sublime. Awesome post! Very informative.

  6. Marisa May 13, 2011 at 11:45 am - Reply

    What an interesting read! Never knew the Friesland people had their own language. I have to confess, zoutdrop is my weakness. I think I’d fit in well between that and the cheese. 😉

  7. Colleen May 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    What an awesome read, your pics are stunning and it seems as though, despite the sourness, you are having a wonderful time 🙂 I could eat my way through all that too! The Rituals teas sound wonderfully interesting. Really enjoyed reading this informative post. Thanx for sharing. Go forth and conquer Barcelona! Enjoy! xx

  8. miriam May 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    lovely to see my country of birth through someone else’s eyes, especially since your expertise opens my eyes to many things i didn’t know yet. more! more!

  9. Ming-Cheau May 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    You pictures are beautiful Ishay! That’s quite a large variety of foods already, so jealous of your trip! Enjoy Barcelona!

  10. anja May 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    can u email recipe of kroketten i have a dutch friend who likes these types of food and obv we are not familiar with this in sa – he also mentioned bitterballen – what is this and any recipe for that as well? Kroketten and bitterballen the exact same thing just different in shape???

    • Ishay June 9, 2011 at 11:26 am - Reply

      Hi Anja. Apologies this has taken a while. Just settling back in. As far as I know, in Holland they are very similar. Bitterballen are made traditionally with minced beef or shredded veal. I was given a recipe in Dutch a while back- I need to find it, but it may be useless to you. If you’re in Cape Town there is a stall at the Neighbourgoods market at the Old Biscuit Mill who sell just bitterballen and poffertjes. They’re awesome!

  11. Linda O June 9, 2011 at 10:54 am - Reply

    How you made think back to a wonderful year spent in the Netherlands in 2002!Stunning photo’s!

  12. Ray Hamilton August 15, 2011 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    My wife’s family makes an onion gravy dish which they call Seepelsheu (see-pl-shoy) Lots of vinegar and quite good. They hail from Leeuwaarden (sp) What is the correct spelling?

    • Ishay August 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Hi Ray.
      Leeuwarden is about 20 min drive away from where my husband his family comes from.
      In Frisian, sipel means onion and the dish you refer to is probably (from my conversations with my husband and research) called sipel jus or ‘onion gravy’ and very similar to the hashee which is what his family calls it.
      Hope that helps!

  13. […] The typical food of Frisland (Friesland) and Holland. | Food and the …May 13, 2012 … Friesland is the only province in Holland with it’s own language (Frisian has … such as speculaas, and my husband’s festive season favourite, … […]

  14. art de Boer August 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    HI,I spent my first 15 years in SNEEK.We have been living in CANADA since 1957. There is one recipe I would like to get a hold of is ‘PARELSI BREI’ I sure hope someone would have this recipe.Please send it to this amail adress.

    • Ishay August 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      Hello there! I am not Frisian, but I’m going to send this to my sister in law and see if she can find you a recipe. Thanks for visiting!

  15. Jenilyn September 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Hi, my father is from Friesland…and he was speaking it yesterday and sharing what foods they normally ate each day. He quoted the exact same sentence about butter, rye bread and green cheese…ha! Thanks for posting this.

    • Ishay September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm - Reply

      Hello Jenilyn. Thank you for sharing! Isn’t it wonderful the food memories from our childhood, and so sweet when recalled years later.

  16. Harm van der Veen May 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    I was born in Friesland and came here a young lad of 7 years in 1951 with my family. I love snert and boerenkool that my mom Saapke used to make for us. Now I make it the way she showed me with all the right spices that I buy in the Dutch store here in Canada

    • Ishay May 10, 2013 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! I will be with the family in Friesland this Sunday. Looking forward

      • Harm van der Veen May 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm - Reply

        Have a safe trip and If you travel trough De Folgeren 7 a suburb of Drachten, and the Leyen where I used to go fishing with my bamboo pole in front of the Creamery, now a hay drying station. Have fun with your family in Friesland and may you have nice sunny weather.

        • Ishay Govender-Ypma (@Foodandthefab) May 13, 2013 at 9:22 am - Reply

          I will share this with the family. It’s 12 degrees, chilly but rain is at bay for now. Thank you and hope you’re having a great day

  17. tami May 13, 2013 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Such an interesting post Ishay. I love how their chip shop is called Friet shop which looks similar to the Afrikaans “vriet” which in polite terms is eat but commonly used when stuffing your face and being a glutton xx

  18. Terry Louwerse July 11, 2013 at 3:18 am - Reply

    My family is also from Friesland. I am married to a non-Friesian (plain Dutchman!) I came to this blog looking for a recipe for Pareltje Brei, a cold soup type of dish that my mother made with black currant juice, raisins, pearl barley and currants. It was delicious but I forget how she made it and she is gone now. I have several cousins in Franeker with the last name of Ypma! I hope you had a great visit and that the weather cooperated!

    • Ishay July 11, 2013 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Terry. Thank you for this very lovely, nostalgic comment. I will ask about the soup you mentioned. You do know they call the Friesians ‘reserve bench Dutchmen’. Jokes aside though, I hope you find a recipe and look forward to hearing from you again

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