Hollandse Nieuwe

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. However, it can be quite difficult to fit in with the locals. In some countries they suck out goat's eyeballs as a delicacy, eat the rotten livers of sea lions  or serve live baby squid. Here we eat Hollandse Nieuwe: raw fish.

Of course, you may have eaten our stroopwafels, smoked our weed and drunk our beer, but this week you won’t be let off the hook so lightly, because, finally, the famous Hollandse Nieuwe has arrived! I won’t sugarcoat the dish either, because it basically means it’s time to eat young, whole, raw herring with chopped onions.

It’s a big thing here. Normally the season starts in May, but because of the cold spring, it had to be postponed until last Wednesday, as the young herring weren’t fat enough. Traditionally the first batch is sold at the fish auction in Scheveningen. This year 66.500 was raided for charity.

We will be having herring parties all over the country. There is no escape! Let me reassure you, though,  the herrings are not really raw, because they are cured using a special technique. The gills and most of the intestines ar removed immediatly  after they are caught, and all the blood is drained from the fish, to keep the meat fresh and white.

Only the pancreas gland stays, spilling all its special enzymes over the meat and giving it  typical taste, smell and texture. No, that’s not gross, that’s smart. By Salting the herring as well, it means that the meat matures properly.

By law, herrings have to be frozen immediately after they are caught, to make sure any herring worm larvae are killed before they become infectious.

That’s vital because these parasites like boring holes in your stomach tissue to lay their eggs, producing new larvae, which will grow into nematodes. These will try to escape through your mouth. As I said, though, there’s  no risk of that happening here, as they will all be dead! They are  tiny anyway.

So try your first Hollandse Nieuwe. Do make sure you use the right technique, though – take the herring by the tail, stretch your neck backwards, look up to the sky, and drop it  into your  mouth. Have fun!