Every country in Europe seems to have its own take on the humble sandwich. From German hotdogs to Italian bruscettas and paninis; French baguettes and tartines to Danish open sandwiches (and we best not forget Britain’s contribution by way of a good old fish finger butty) it feels like bakers across the EU are working together to up our carb intake. But as with all things, don’t underestimate the Dutch who know a thing or two about producing a great sandwich, especially if you’re going by taste more than looks!
From meat to fish, egg to cheese, the choice of fillings in a broodje (pronounced ‘brohd-che’) is lengthy. Rolls can be long, crusty, crunchy and chewy (often listed as pistoletjes) or round and soft (bol), seeded granary (waldkorn) or white (wit). For fillings look for old or young dutch cheeses; croquettes; meats (sliced meats, sausages, tartare with sliced egg or filet americain – the latter a kind of whipped paté which is a bit too smooth for my liking) and of course fish including tuna, salmon, prawns and the “super-lekker” herring. I have to confess to having had some incredibly tasty omelette sandwiches over the years too!
Whilst there are a few places that exclusively specialise in broodjes (the hip branches of takeaway foodstore Stach are great) you’ll generally find them on lunchtime menus in a most cafes and restaurants.
If however you’re after a more authentic offering, head to Eetsalon Van Dobben (est. 1945) a true Amsterdam institution. This is the Dutch equivalent of New York’s old school deli’s. A small store that began its days serving a filling and good value lunch to the city’s blue collar workers.
Van Dobben croquettes or ‘kroketten’ are now on sale all over the city and beyond but head here for the experience which is like no other.
There’s nothing hipster about this cafe (when you see it you’ll understand why it’s not the kind of place that Instagrammers rush to!) but what you will get is a taste of the real Amsterdam and an atmosphere that’s sadly being lost in the ever-more gentrified city. Here you’ll find the city’s locals, white tiled walls; bar-stools at the counter; servers in white butchers’ coats armed with pencils and notebooks; and best of all some no-nonsense Amsterdam attitude and witty repartee. Food-wise come for krokets or bitterballen sandwiched in a small white roll with mustard and a glass of buttermilk on the side. Not a fan of fried croquettes? Check out the cold cuts – for me the ‘special’ – Dutch tartaar with egg and onions or a classic ossenworst broodje. For Marc, some smooth “Filet Americain” pate. There are fish options as well as cheese or egg, and for kids (or big kids) there’s Pinderkaas (Dutch Peanut Butter) and “Haagelslag” (chocolate sprinkles). Combining the two gives you a “Snickers in a roll”.
Some argue that the quality of krokets is finer at Patisserie Holtkamp supplier to the Dutch royal family, but every Amsterdammer – indeed pretty much every Dutch person – will vouch for Van Dobben in the fried snack stakes.