dutch herring eaten by tail

Dutch raw Herring – start of the fishing season 2019


A very unique Dutch delicacy is Dutch herring. If you come to visit Amsterdam you should really try it at least once. As raw herring is eaten raw, the taste can be compared with sashimi. However, Dutch herring has a much stronger fishier taste. So if you’re into sashimi, you have a good chance of liking Dutch herring. Dutch herring is usually served with onions and pickles, but they can be left out on request. The person behind the counter might ask; “uitjes, zuur?” which translates to “onions, sour?” Traditionally herring should be eaten by holding it by the tail (bij de staart) and eating it at once. If it’s the first time you try herring it might be a good idea to have it cut in pieces, although the real Dutch experience is “bij de staart”.

dutch herring with pickels and onions
This is how Dutch Herring is usually served with optional pickels and onions. In the photo, it is sliced

Start of the Dutch Herring season 2019

The annual start of the Herring season will be celebrated at “Vlaggetjesdag” in Scheveningen the 15th of June 2019. Traditionally the first barrel of herring is sold to the highest bidder. In 2018 this barrel was sold for a staggering 78.000 euro’s. The revenue of the auction is donated to a charity.

Where to buy Dutch Herring

You can find Dutch herring in one of the many fish stalls and fish shops or on the market. Occasionally you can find it in supermarkets and at the airport as well. We Dutchies, however, believe that raw herring should never be bought prepackaged. The filleting of the fish should be done only moments for eating to have the best taste.

Serious herring business

We Dutchies take herring very seriously. There are a number of rules and traditions concerning this delicacy. During the fishing season, herring is called ‘Hollands Nieuwe’ it can only be named this if the fish is caught the same month it’s sold. The fishing season can be opened in May or June, but only when the herring contains at least 16% fat. The season is opened with a festival called ‘vlaggetjesdag’. The first catch is traditionally being sold in a cask on ‘vlaggetjesdag’ at an auction for an extraordinarily high price. The money collected goes to a charity of choice. Besides the fat percentage of the fish, there are more rules that have to meet such as;

  • It has to be traditionally filleted. The pancreas should be left in order to give the herring its taste
  • The herring has to be salted
  • The herring has to age at least five days in oak casks
  • The bones have to be removed except for the tail
  • It has to be frozen for at least 24-hours

Spoiler; Dutch Herring is not as Dutch as it used to be. Due to restrictions and high costs, the Dutch fishermen weren’t able to compete against the Danish. Denmark has more and better fishing grounds. There are no Dutch herring fishers left and now the Dutch herring is imported from Denmark. The strict requirements above, however, are still enforced on the imported fish.

Did you try Dutch Herring yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Beware off sea gulls when eating herring

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