What Makes New Catch Holland Herring So Unique To Dutch Cuisine

The Dutch love herring. If you find yourself eating in Amsterdam restaurants, you very may well see this fish on menus. Despite price increases, Dutch News is predicting the Netherlands' national trend of eating 30 to 45 million herring a year will continue. To understand the love the Dutch have for this tiny little fish, we need to examine the context in which such adoration exists. 

According to Holland.com, the New Catch herring (or Hollandse Nieuwe) is caught every year between May and July. This time period coincides with the fish's yearly cycle of plumping up on plankton. Hollandse Nieuwe has to have a minimum fat content of 16%. Once caught, herrings are dressed and salted aboard the ships that caught them. 

Herring have been caught and processed in this manner since the 17th century Dutch Golden Age. With a strong merchant navy, an abundance of herring in Dutch waters, and the uptick of fish-eating around the Catholic tradition of Lent, herring and Dutch culture have been linked for hundreds of years (via Dutch Review). Perhaps the best example of how much this slender, fat-filled fish has become a symbol of Dutch cultural pride is in the month of June. It is a festive season for the Dutch, with numerous nationwide festivals held to celebrate the arrival of the new catch. One such celebration is Flag Day. 

The importance of Vlaggetjesdag (Flag Day)

Vlaggetjesdag (Flag Day) is one of the biggest street festivals in The Hague, according to Holland.com. Held each June, the first barrel of Hollandse Nieuwe is brought to shore and auctioned. Once sold, all profits from the auctioned barrel go to charity, and herring season officially begins. Held in the coastal town of Scheveningen, Flag Day celebrates the start of the season with herring ships lining the harbor, local music, Old Dutch games, and traditional handicrafts. The event is free and open to the public. 

Stalls selling New Catch herring on Flag Day serve the fish raw, often coated with a generous helping of onions and pickles. The process of eating this small, oily fish is an act of theater itself. Dutch Review instructs, "It's customary to grab a salty herring by the tail and then let it slide down your throat." You can also eat these slippery sources of protein on hot, buttered rolls. If you're looking to sample similar delicacies at home, search for canned sardines in your local market.