After touring parts of Holland for three days, I spent my last few hours there at Scheveningen beach about twenty minutes away from Den Haag. I was excited to be at a beach that wasn’t the North Coast or the Red Sea, and I was even more excited to be at the very tip of the European continent for a few hours.
The weather was incredible; sitting in the sun, counting seashells, contemplating whether or not to jump into the water, I felt like I was at a beach in California until my stomach started to rumble.
I was lucky enough to be with a friend who had lived in the Netherlands for quite some time and knew exactly where to take me; knowing my intense love for "Renga" and sushi, he introduced me to a Netherland favorite: Dutch Raw Herring (also lovingly referred to as a hangover remedy).
Raw herring has been a Dutch staple for almost 600 years. It is especially popular in Amsterdam but you can find it anywhere around the Netherlands. Herring fish is usually caught in the North and East sea from May to mid July, the only time it’s allowed to be caught since during that time the plankton in the sea is ample, the herring feed on it and becomes nice, fat, and juicy.
Now herring is not just a staple in the Netherlands, it is also popular in Sweden, Germany and of course, Egypt. In Germany, herring is typically served with potatoes and any form of cream of yogurt sauce. In Sweden it is either fried and eaten with potatoes, or in some cases it is marinated with herbs in big barrels, and left to rot. In Egypt herring is salted and smoked and served in oil, lemon and vinegar mixed with salad greens and spring onions. It is a staple during Egyptian Easter and popular during Eid el Fitr, a four day celebratory feast after the holy month of Ramadan. In Egypt they also have a similar form of fish to the Swedes rotten herring called "feseekh" but made with grey mullet.
Not all herring is served raw in the Netherlands, in some shops you can eat “soused herring”; where the herring fish is laid in salt for a few days to ripen, but I like to live on the edge, and decided to eat it as is, raw. I was lucky to have been in Holland in July because being the season I would easily get me some freshly caught herring.
We finally made it to a fish stand and I stood there looking at all the other types of fish beautifuly laid and carved ready to be purchased by passersby. I must have been staring for quite some time because the gentleman at the stand loudly asked me if I needed anything. My friend laughed and asked for two Herrings.
Raw Herring is served with diced onions, sliced gherkins and can be eaten two ways; if you’re worried about getting fish fingers, you can have it cut into small pieces and eaten with a fork, the traditional method is a little more interesting, you grab the little sucker by the tail, dip in the onions, lift it up and bite!
Fresh Herring is soft, juicy and has no smell whatsoever, it's not too salty, it tastes mildly of sea and Omega 3, the diced onions give it a nice tang and crunch, and complement the overall softness of the fish. Eating it the traditional way is definitely messy, but truly memorable and fun, and don’t forget to eat it standing inside, the seagulls there are vicious and have no problem soaring in to catch your delicious fish!