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A crash course on how to eat herring the traditional Dutch way

June 5th marks the start of the new herring season in the Netherlands. So, isn’t it about time that you learnt to enjoy ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’ (Dutch Herring) the traditional Dutch way? Here are 4 simple steps to enjoying this typical Dutch delicacy like a native.

1. Buy a fresh herring

This first step might sound obvious, but it’s important to emphasise that your herring should be both raw and extremely fresh. A fresh herring will have bright eyes, not smell too fishy and boast shiny, smooth looking scales. Take care to examine the gills too, which should be a lovely red or pink colour and free from mucus.

2. Prepare your herring

Place the raw herring on a small plate and sprinkle with freshly chopped onion or arrange some silver skin onions and / or Dutch pickled gherkins next to it. The herring should never be baked, fried or cooked in any other way, but rather consumed completely raw. Dutch herring is salted and frozen for at least 24 hours, so you needn’t worry about parasites. Filleting is also unnecessary, as the fishmonger will have already taken the trouble to remove any bones. Just keep an eye out for the odd small one he may have missed.
How to eat Dutch herring
3. Grab the herring by the tail

Yes, you read it correctly! A genuine ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’ is never eaten with the aid of a knife and fork. Simply pick up the herring by its tail, using your thumb and index finger, and dangle high in the air.

4. Eat your herring up!

Once your herring is held aloft, throw back your head and open your mouth. Now bring the front of the herring to your mouth and bite off a small piece. Repeat this process until all that remains of your herring is the tail.

If you prefer not to get your hands dirty, then alternatively you can cut your herring into small chunks and eat with a fork or place in a soft, white roll topped with raw onions and pickles. To learn more about the traditions surrounding the Hollandse Nieuwe, check out this blog about Vlaggetjesdag (and scroll down to ‘other events’).

Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?

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