Dutch Sushi, anyone? Sure, how about herring?

The Dutch Herring Tradition: A Culinary Delight

In the Dutch herring tradition, you should know some key words to understand the way herring is sold and consumed. Fish called Herring is ‘haring’ (singular) or ‘maatjes’ (plural) or ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’. Arrival: always in Spring, April or May. Traditionally in the port of Scheveningen. Point of sale: outdoors at ‘de haringkar’ (or in supermarkets).  Consumption: either by the tail (‘bij de staart’) or in pieces (‘in stukjes’).


The arrival of April (or May) marks a cherished tradition in the Netherlands—the eagerly anticipated moment when the new herring, known locally as ‘maatjes’, grace the shores. This seasonal spectacle isn’t merely about catching fish; it’s a cultural event deeply rooted in Dutch heritage and culinary appreciation.

Haring test

Gauging Quality: A Test of Tradition As the new herring arrives, a ritual of sorts unfolds—a test to determine its quality. Dutch fishermen and enthusiasts meticulously inspect these silver-scaled treasures, comparing their plumpness to the previous year’s catch. The measure of fatness is not just a matter of taste but a reflection of environmental conditions, fishing techniques, and the health of the North Sea’s ecosystem.

Haring Eten

How to eat herring. To truly savor the essence of Dutch herring, one must embrace the traditional methods of consumption. While some may prefer to savor the fish whole, grasped firmly by the tail, others opt for a more refined approach—sliced into delicate portions, enhancing each bite with a touch of tangy onion.

‘Haring Eten’, by Hand (“compleet”). For purists, there’s no experience quite like holding the herring by its tail, lifting it above the mouth, and allowing the succulent fish to slide down with each savory bite. This tactile ritual not only celebrates the freshness of the catch but also embodies a connection to Dutch maritime heritage.

‘Haring Eten’, Sliced and Savored (“in stukjes”). For those who prefer a more composed presentation, slicing the herring into bite-sized pieces offers a refined alternative. Paired with crisp, thinly sliced onions and perhaps a sprinkle of pepper, each morsel becomes a symphony of flavors—a harmonious blend of oceanic richness and subtle acidity.

De Haringkar

Beyond its culinary significance, herring holds a special place in Dutch culture. From bustling street markets to quaint seaside cafes, the sight and aroma of freshly caught herring evoke a sense of nostalgia and community. Whether enjoyed as a quick snack on the go or as part of a leisurely meal with loved ones, herring remains a cherished symbol of Dutch identity.

Sustainability and Stewardship

In recent years, the Dutch fishing industry has increasingly emphasized sustainability and responsible stewardship of marine resources. Initiatives aimed at preserving fish stocks and minimizing environmental impact ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the tradition of Dutch herring for years to come.

A typical request at a Dutch ‘Haringkar’ would be: “Mag ik een haring van u? “Compleet” or “In stukjes” alstublieft”.


In the Netherlands, the arrival of new herring isn’t just a seasonal occurrence; it’s a celebration of culinary craftsmanship, cultural heritage, and maritime legacy. From the bustling docks to the quaint seaside towns, the aroma of fresh herring permeates the air, beckoning both locals and visitors alike to partake in this timeless tradition. Whether enjoyed by hand or delicately sliced, plain or adorned with onions, Dutch herring is more than just a fish—it’s a symbol of shared identity and community spirit.

If you want to learn more about Dutch Culture, or how to eat your herring in a proper way, just call on Flowently. We offer in every Dutch town both private tutors to learn Dutch, but also can arrange for incompany trainings for groups of internationals at your company.


Written by Flowently

Published by: Flowently

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