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Dutch herring with chopped onions

Photo © Flickr by Jen Waller
Definition: There is a local saying that Amsterdam was built on herring bones. And, in fact, historians believe that the Netherlands gained its upper hand on the world seas in the 17th century because Dutch sailors were fed on herring, an excellent source of protein and omega fatty acids. Therefore it seems that Holland can thank its Golden Age, at least in part, to this silvery-blue fish.

The Dutch are obsessed with the season’s first herring, called Hollandse nieuwe , which starts appearing at the beginning of June. The arrival of this slippery treat is usually front page news here. It's safe to say that herring is a bit of a Dutch culinary icon.

Herring may only be called Hollandse nieuwe if it was caught between May and July, contains at least 16% fat and is prepared according to the Dutch tradition. The fish are gutted on board the fishing boats, leaving the pancreas in place. The pancreatic enzymes do most of the conservation, so that the brine they are kept in needs much less salt. This could explain why Dutch herring is so much more flavorful than other salted or pickled herring varieties in the rest of Europe.

The way the Dutch eat their herring is pretty unusual. They serve it with chopped raw onions and sliced gherkins. The idea is that you grab the herring by its tail, dip it in the raw onions, throw your head back and down the hatch it goes…

Also Known As: Nieuwe Haring; Hollandse Nieuwe
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